Study: Half of jobs require more than high school diploma, but not college degree

by Jeff Della Rosa (JDellaRosa@nwabj.com) 764 views 

Nurses, electricians and diesel technicians are a few of the jobs that will be in high demand over the next decade, studies show.

The Springdale Chamber of Commerce recently commissioned two studies to determine which jobs would be most in demand over the next decade. The chamber on Thursday (March 7) hosted a press conference to reveal the findings, focusing on middle skills careers or jobs that don’t require a four-year degree but may require training or certification beyond high school.

About half of all jobs in 2020 will require middle skills, said Ted Abernathy, managing partner of Economic Leadership LLC. The consulting company completed the research for the studies, one of the diesel technician shortage and another on the skills that would be most in demand over the next decade. The latter study shows jobs openings in Springdale and throughout the region “far exceed” the number of those being trained for such positions. He explained the demand for jobs is five to 10 times the number of people here with the needed skills.

Arkansas will need nearly 3,000 new diesel technicians by 2027, but training programs across the state produce about 116 graduates annually, which would be a shortfall of about 2,000 technicians by 2027. In Northwest Arkansas, hundreds of diesel technician jobs are available, and it will be three times that in 10 years, said Perry Webb, president and CEO of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce.

Many of the jobs in high demand offer a salary of more than $40,000, and earnings potential rises as employees earn more skills and experience. Demand for jobs is a result of workers reaching retirement age, a small number of young people seeking jobs in these fields and the creation of new jobs.

“Having a workforce with the skills employers need is vital to keeping our economy strong,” Webb said. “These findings will help training providers align their programs to meet employer needs.”

The training capacity to meet demand in the region needs to increase by 75%, Abernathy said. Webb explained the enrollment at Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale needs to rise from 325 to 3,250 to meet demand. He also said the technical school might look to reduce the number of training programs to focus on a few for the most in-demand jobs.

“Without improving the training pipeline to help fill skills gaps, employers could automate and relocate,” Abernathy said. “The Springdale Chamber has initiated several programs that should produce increased impacts in the coming years and the results of these studies will help stakeholders focus on attracting and training talent in industries where those gaps are largest.”

Ted Abernathy, right, of Economic Leadership LLC and Perry Webb of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce hosted a press conference Thursday (March 7) to reveal studies on the most in-demand jobs in the region and the diesel technician shortage.

Some of the recommendations in the studies include a more educational focus on high demand jobs, that employers work with public schools to raise awareness of these jobs, increase training capacity of programs at Northwest Technical Institute and create more work experiences for students and provide training for existing workers in order to fill in-demand jobs.

“We’re already taking action,” Webb said. “The chamber, training providers and our school district are working to foster public-private partnerships to grow and support training programs for these high-need skills.”

The most in-demand job in Northwest Arkansas is sales representative for wholesale and manufacturing companies, and 466 new workers are needed annually, the study shows. The job only requires a high school diploma, and the median wage is more than $28 per hour. Over the past year, seven students completed course of studies focused on that career path, and marketing was the comparable career and technical education program.

Interest has been low in many high-demand careers as a result of outdated perceptions of the jobs and lack of understating about what they entail and earnings potential. Many parents and students might have also been dissuaded from enrolling in training programs at Northwest Technical Institute because of its outdated look and feel of the campus, according to the study. Stagnant funding and restrictive regulations have negatively impacted the only technical school in the area. A modern, state-of-the-art campus and training programs would improve perceptions of the careers and attract talent.

Following are the jobs in high demand:

  • Sales with a focus on wholesale trade
  • Computer user support
  • Truck drivers
  • Electricians
  • Nurses
  • Medical assistants and technicians
  • Dental assistants
  • Home health aides
  • Diesel technicians
  • Automotive technicians
  • Industrial maintenance
  • Refrigeration operations
  • Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians

Link here for a summary of the studies.

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