College & Workforce Readiness

What the Workforce Will Require of Students

By Catherine Gewertz — November 11, 2009 1 min read
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We’ve heard it before, but here it comes again: today’s students must have some postsecondary training or education in order to get good jobs.

One of the most respected voices on what today’s workplace requires of new entrants, Anthony P. Carnevale, has a new paper out arguing that adolescents have virtually no shot at middle-class earnings without some form of education after high school.

An interesting tidbit on that, though: while more education is better than less, it isn’t necessarily true that higher-level degrees carry more paycheck cash than lower-level ones. Two in 10 of those with occupational or vocational associate of arts degrees earn more than the median earnings of those with bachelor’s, and 14 percent earn more than the median earnings of people with graduate degrees, he says. One-quarter of those with bachelor’s degrees earn less than those with associate degrees.

He also argues that the United States faces a shortage of college-educated workers because young people are not obtaining degrees at a quick enough rate to replace retiring baby boomers.

Arguments like Carnevale’s support the tilt of rhetoric from President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who have been calling on more Americans to get postsecondary training or education. But not everyone agrees that the new workplace demands college-level skill. For other perspectives, check out reports by Paul E. Barton, a respected researcher who used to head up the Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center (here and here).

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.