College-ready teens in short supply

Young people who graduate from high school and go on to college, the traditional source of new workers, will no longer sufficiently fill the huge number of jobs that require postsecondary training.

Recent research demonstrates a troubling inverse relationship between job market and higher-education trends: As the job market increasingly demands postsecondary training, the number of recent high school graduates available to receive such training is leveling off in some states and even declining in others, despite the growth of online education.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Center for Higher Education Management (NCHEMS) released a paper June 22, titled “Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College.” The paper finds that with a declining number of high school graduates entering postsecondary education, adult access to and completion of college is critical to maintaining the nation’s economic competitiveness.

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The report’s alarming statistics come as web-based classes have proliferated throughout higher education and provided more options for students who work full time.

By 2018, the number of jobs that demand postsecondary training will rise 16 percent to comprise two-thirds of all jobs, according to a state-by-state analysis.

The report finds that even today, adults who have completed only high school are twice as likely to be out of work as adults with a bachelor’s degree.

“Employers like people who have graduated with the specific skill set for the occupation they’re in,” said Vickie Choitz, a senior policy analyst at CLASP, citing nurses as a common example.

Choitz said employers are also interested in softer skills that students often acquire in a college environment, such as time management, interpersonal and leadership skills, and professional behavior.

Owing to changing demographics, however, as the number of jobs requiring postsecondary education increases in the next decade, there will be no national growth in the number of high school graduates.

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