For a good summary of why high schoolers shouldn't pin all their college aspirations on just four-year degrees, head over toThe New York Times. Author Jeffrey Selingo mounts a strong defense of technical degrees, certifications, and apprenticeships.
Here's the money quote (quite literally):
[Georgetown University] research has found that 40 percent of middle-skills jobs pay more than $55,000 a year; some 14 percent pay more than $80,000 (by comparison, the median salary for young adults with a bachelor’s degree is $50,000).
There is a catch, however. Students who struggle academically in K-12 will face an uphill battle in technical school, and they are much less likely to land these rewarding jobs. Selingo's piece opens with a shocking anecdote:
When the German engineering company Siemens Energy opened a gas turbine production plant in Charlotte, N.C., some 10,000 people showed up at a job fair for 800 positions. But fewer than 15 percent of the applicants were able to pass a reading, writing and math screening test geared toward a ninth-grade education.
That amounts to thousands of people who are hungry to work but lack the skills to get available jobs. As we consider how to reinvigorate communities ravaged by the loss of traditional manufacturing work, education has to be a big part of the answer.
Fortunately, some companies, like Siemens, John Deere, and Dow are tackling the challenge head on by collaborating with community colleges to create education and training programs that lead to good jobs. Check out Selingo's account to learn more.
This past election season invoked talk of putting people back to work—particularly in the manufacturing sector. To help frame the scope of the problem, a study from the Brookings Institute claims that factories eliminated 6.7 million people’s positions with some industries completely dying out from 1980 to 2014. At first glance, that looks bad for manufacturing. However, this same study found that American factories made twice as much in that same 30-year period with production today at an all-time high. So, if production is up but employment is down, where is the disparity?
“The popular notion is that the jobs were shipped to low-wage countries like Mexico or China. The reality is that in recent years, 88 percent of job loss in manufacturing is due to gains in productivity, such as increased use of robots,” asserts Dr. Anthony Carnevale in an op-ed for the Hechinger Report. The data Carnevale cites has serious educational implications; workers with a high school diploma or less took the brunt of the productivity-based employment losses.
That popular notion used to be closer to the truth. According to The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), historically manufacturing competitiveness relied heavily on low-cost labor sources. This gave the advantage to low-wage countries. However, new BCG studies of the last ten years in manufacturing report that many countries, including the U.S., offset higher wage costs with increases in productivity. And countries that did not focus on production lost some ground—shifting the manufacturing advantage in favor of these high output economies. This shift implicates a growing trend in manufacturing robots since technological advances in automation allow today’s factories to do much more with much less.
“Robots can complete many manufacturing tasks more efficiently, effectively, and consistently than human workers, leading to higher output with the same number of workers, better quality, and less waste,” states the report from BCG.
As the use of manufacturing robots becomes more commonplace, the types of manufacturing jobs available to employees will require more skill. The National Association of Manufacturers forecasts an additional 3 ½ million manufacturing jobs over the next 10 years. But 2 million of those positions will go unfilled unless we produce a workforce with the post-secondary skills needed.
The trends in manufacturing employment highlight the nationwide employment issues for those with just a high school diploma or less. Economically, the environment has changed for low-skill jobs and won’t likely change back—positioning post-secondary as more of a requirement and less of an option for anyone seeking to make a living wage. To those rallying for stronger K-12 education, and for STEM particularly, there is no better time than the present if they want to change this future!
The Great Recession put an exclamation point behind the message of STEM education advocates around the country. Amidst worsening unemployment and anxiety about an uncertain economic future, a credential in fields such as computer science and engineering promised stability and prosperity. CTEq’s new analysis of federal data on degrees and certificates awarded in the U.S. shows that Americans may have embraced this promise.
Since 2009, the number of degrees and certificates in computer science and engineering has grown much faster than the number of degrees and certificates overall.
Overall, degrees and certificates below the bachelor’s level grew the fastest. In computer science and engineering, by contrast, the number of bachelor’s and advanced degrees has grown faster than the number of credentials below the bachelor’s level. That said, even subbacalaureate growth has been robust in these STEM fields:
This trend towards bachelor’s and advanced degrees has changed the balance of computer science and engineering credentials since 2001:
Why the growth in these STEM degrees and certificates? Americans seem to be responding to market forces, and the advantages of computer science and engineering degrees are attractive, especially and the bachelor's level and above. Vocal STEM champions--including CTEq--publicized the immediate rewards of STEM credentials, especially during the economic recovery. Take, for example, this overview of STEM unemployment from 2011 to 2014:
The employment advantage has held up well for computer science and engineering in 2016:
The earnings incentives for getting degrees in computing or engineering could hardly be clearer:
So what lessons can we take away from these recent data? Those of us who have been shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of an education in computer science and engineering can take heart that our messages are not falling on deaf ears.
Stay tuned in the coming week for more in-depth analysis of these trends by race and gender.
UPDATE: The analysis of credentials in computing and engineering relied on data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) from 2001 to 2015. Subbaccalaureate credentials include "postsecondary certificates," "associate's degrees," and "awards of at least 2 but less than 4 academic years. Bachelor's-plus degrees include "bachelor's degrees," "post-baccalaureate certificates," "Master's degrees," "Post-master's certificates," and "Doctor's degrees." Computing credentials include a broad range of computer science, information technology, and other computer-related degree and certificate programs. Engineering credentials include degrees and certificates in engineering technology, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and other engineering fields.
As recently as 2011, “big data” was not very big news. Fast forward five years, and it consistently ranks among business leaders’ top priorities. Depending on whom you ask, the amount of data on everything from consumer behavior to corporate performance is doubling every one or two years, and analysts predict that shortages of people with the skills to analyze such data may cause high-paying jobs to go begging and companies to lose revenue.
One solution to this challenge? Better access to statistics education in high school.
CTEq’s new analysis of recent federal data on high school statistics courses is hardly reassuring. Most high schoolers attend schools that offer at least some kind of probability and statistics course, but access to gold-standard AP statistics courses is spotty—and it is anything but equitable.
Unfortunately, the picture looks worse for lower-income students:
Not surprisingly, low-income students are less likely take statistics courses:
Geography also plays a big role in who has access to statistics courses, especially AP courses. The AP gap separating town and rural students from suburban students is simply breathtaking:
This gap in access to AP courses has predictable results:
The stakes for improving access to statistics are higher than you might think. Big data can yield big benefits in fields as diverse as public health and weather forecasting, but it can also lead us astray when it loses its moorings in statistical principles.
Take, for example, the case of Google’s Flu Trends, the once-heralded big data initiative that used Google search data to estimate influenza activity in 20 countries. For all its sophisticated algorithms and mountains of data, the enterprise dramatically over-estimated the number of flu cases in the United States, because it rested on a wobbly statistical foundation. We cannot reap the rewards of big data without a healthy supply of statisticians.
So what is to be done? It may be an overreach to require every high school student to take a statistics course, given the many claims on high-schoolers' schedules. That said, expanding access to AP courses in statistics is one feasible strategy for tackling the problem. The National Math + Science Initiative's College Readiness Program has already expanded access to AP courses, including AP statistics, in states around the country.
Another solution may already be afoot. States across the country have recently adopted academic standards that include a dose of probability and statistics in middle and high school. The challenge, of course, is to prepare teachers to teach that new content at a time when many lack a strong foundation in the subject.
Despite some encouraging signs, the fate of statistics in K-12 remains an open question. The answer lies in broader access to courses and better teacher training.
By some measures, jobs have come roaring back since the recession, but that hasn’t been good news for everyone in the workforce. The plight of tens of millions of Americans who have not shared in the recovery has become a major theme in this turbulent election cycle.
A recent report from Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the forces behind this year's tumult. The report finds that a whopping 99 percent of the roughly 11.6 million new jobs created since the great recession went to Americans with more than a high school education. 73 percent went to those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
So who isn’t reaping the benefits of this recovery? The nearly 40 percent of Americans who never progressed beyond high school. Who is taking the lion’s share of the benefit? The 34 percent who earned at least a bachelor’s degree.
The intense anger roiling this election year caught many pundits by surprise, but the Georgetown report offers some important context. These economic trends have been at work for decades, but the recession accelerated them dramatically, the report finds. In fact, Georgetown's grim numbers could foreshadow growing discontent as a dwindling share of Americans enjoys the rewards of economic growth.
So what is to be done? One important solution is, of course, education. Demand for well-educated workers often outstrips supply, especially in the STEM fields. (Indeed, the Georgetown report found that STEM healthcare and computer occupations were among the top three job-producing occupations since 2007.) To be sure, we should continue trying to keep many more young people on a trajectory to bachelor's degrees in fields like computer science. In addition, we need to align other credentials, like certificates and two-year degrees, more closely with the skills employers need most.
According to poll after poll, most Americans are worried about the nation's future. U.S. leaders should remind them--often--that every path to prosperity passes through better schools.
* We calculated educational attainment data for Americans aged 25-65 by analyzing U.S. Census Department Data.