Since my address to the Post-secondary Education Review Commission on Sept. 28, much has been made about the list showing the job category of ushers, lobby attendants and ticket-takers as one of the fastest growing in the state, growing at a rate of 95 percent in 10 years.
What has been left out of the discussion is that this is percentage growth, not sheer number of openings. In fact, this forecasted growth translates into just 740 jobs out of nearly 360,000 new jobs expected to be created over that period.
Far more meaningful to consider is the list of the top 25 demand jobs that pay at least $30,000 a year. On this list, the number of openings for skilled labor predominates – there will be slightly more than twice as many of those jobs as there are jobs for Louisiana graduates with bachelor’s or advanced degrees through 2016.
Louisiana has a shortage of about 4,000 workers a year for jobs that require career or technical education. At the same time, many of our university graduates are leaving Louisiana to find work. This tells me that our system of higher education is producing a workforce for jobs that do not exist in our economy while we have open jobs for skilled labor that we cannot fill.
Louisiana’s mix of top demand occupations looks a lot like the mix in highly competitive states such as Texas, Georgia and North Carolina. These are among the states that hire many of our four-year college graduates, and they’re able to do it partly because they have done a better job over the years of supplying skilled labor for their businesses and industries.
Obviously, we need more jobs for university graduates.
One of the best ways to do that is to grow our community and technical college system to meet Louisiana’s demand for skilled labor. That will yield more job-creation projects, each of which will generate new jobs for college graduates in many fields, including management, finance, accounting, marketing, human resources and engineering.
Every new project helps to grow ancillary professional services like accountants, business consultants, bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc. – all jobs that require four-year or advanced college degrees.
Roughly three-quarters of the enrollment in Louisiana’s post-secondary education system is in our universities, yet business and industry are demanding roughly twice as many workers with community and technical college credentials. This misalignment must be addressed for our state to compete in the long run against other states whose occupational mixes are very similar to ours, but where the supply and demand are much better matched.
Strengthening the community and technical college system, which has been part of workforce reform since 2008, is a critical component of the solution. Addressing this misalignment will contribute to addressing the unavoidable budget shortfall facing higher education, but also makes the pursuit of post-secondary education more affordable for students – including those who choose to transfer later to a university to pursue bachelor’s degrees.
Louisiana Workforce Commission