How to fix the Mismatch: Washington students not educated enough for Washington jobs

Who wants to talk growth?  It’s a hot button topic in the Snoqualmie Valley as developers look to buy land and build homes to meet the demand of King County’s population growth.

County officials tell us all the time what’s happening: the Washington job market is strong. Companies like Microsoft, Amazon often hire from out-of-state to fill their well-paying jobs openings. Those new residents/employees need housing. They also become new commuters on the roads.

Have you ever asked yourself why they recruit from outside of Washington?

Washington Roundtable spends a lot of time examining that issue, and the statistics are eye-opening. Some of those mismatched stats were shared in late April when Neil Strege, Vice President of Washington Roundtable, spoke at the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce Luncheon, discussing “Pathways to Great Jobs and Opportunities for Washington Kids.”

Between 2016-2021, it’s estimated that 740,000 jobs will be created by Washington companies, and most will require some form of post secondary credential – like a college degree, technical or industry certification or apprenticeship.

According to Washington Roundtable, local companies want to fill these jobs with Washington residents, but currently only about one-third of high school graduates obtain a post secondary credential by age 26 – which leads to companies looking outside of Washington for needed employees.

Washington Roundtable is working with those companies and the state to help improve the education system and create a homegrown, local workforce – with a goal of 70% of high school graduates attaining a post secondary credential by the year 2030.

At the luncheon filled with local business owners, city officials, a school district employees, Strege led a lively discussion on ways the Snoqualmie Valley community could collaborate to help its students 1) understand the realities of the state’s job market; 2) that they most likely will need some form of post secondary credential to get these jobs; 3) ways to help find a career path that interests them (like local mentorship and internships).

In a nutshell, build a community and collaborative effort to help students create their plans. Many in the audience acknowledged that it did not need to be a specific plan – like knowing at 18 exactly what they want to do for the rest of their life –  but, kids need information on post high school options to help them shape a direction.

Washington: Have Jobs, Need Qualified Employees

According to Washington Roundtable, each year state employers are creating 52,000 jobs considered “career” jobs, where 73% of workers will have a post secondary credential. But Washington is only supplying 24,000 students to fill those jobs. For pathway jobs, where 34% of workers will have a post secondary credential, 66,000 jobs are being created annually with only 38,000 Washington students available to fill the jobs.

Career jobs require higher skills and provide higher compensation – paying $60,000 – $100,000+ annually. Pathway jobs don’t require the same level of post secondary credential, but require higher worker skill level and offer a potential path to a career job. Salaries range from $30,000 – $45,000 annually.

Washington is also producing a lot of entry-level jobs (about 30,000 per year), but not at the same pace as the higher paying jobs. Strege also pointed out that even in entry-level positions, 20% of workers will have some form of post secondary credential. These jobs pay $20,000-$30,000/year.

Help Create the Needed Workforce

Some in the audience asked Strege if there was a way to fine tune his presentation for high school students, so they know the realities of our state’s job market.

Mount Si High School Principal John Belcher spoke about the new “High School and Beyond Plan” – a state graduation requirement that students are supposed to begin while in middle school in collaboration with the school and parents. The HSBP helps ‘chart a course’ through high school that aligns with a student’s post high school direction – whether it be 4-year college, vocational certification, military or straight into the workforce.

According to state data, 74% of 2014 SVSD graduates went on to 2 and 4-year colleges. But Washington Roundtable data also shows that only about one-third of students are actually acquiring the post secondary credentials (i.e. degree, certificate, etc.) needed to fill our state’s jobs. To this point Belcher noted the importance of local internships and mentors helping students identify what jobs and areas of study might interest them. Local business people in the audience agreed.

Being well-prepared during high school and having some type of 4-year after high school plan correlates with a student’s post secondary success – no matter what they choose to pursue: college, vocational certification, an apprenticeship, workforce etc.

Chamber of Commerce committed to Helping

Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce President Carolyn Simpson said they were  delighted to host the Washington Roundtable’s Vice President Neil Strege as their April luncheon keynote speaker. Se commented, “The Washington Roundtable is composed of the top executives of our state’s largest private employers. Neil’s presentation focused on the fact that these employers struggle to fill available jobs with Washington residents and they collectively voice concern about the state of future jobs because of a mismatch between jobs available in our state and the education of our residents.

Simpson added, “Their recent report prepared by the Boston Consulting Group, identified that most of the jobs in our state require a post-secondary credential, like a college degree, some college, or a technical certificate, yet the numbers of educated workforce is vastly lower than the needs in our industries.”

The Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce says is committed to working with local employers to help communicate career and education pathways and to explore the possibilities for developing career exposure, apprenticeship, and internship programs for Valley students.

The Chamber also works with nine other Chambers in East King County, including Bellevue and Issaquah, to develop and strongly communicate an education policy position to encourage the state legislature to help ensure that all students gradate high school with the skills needed to pursue higher education and attain high wage/high skilled/high demand jobs such as those in the STEM, information technology, finance, and health care industries.

Washington Roundtable Vice President Neil Strege at Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce April Luncheon


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