Education Beat: New study shows Md. job growth focused on college grads

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By Mike Bowler

Those jobs lost in the Great Recession of 2007? Many of them won’t be coming back, even if there’s robust economic recovery.

Why this seeming paradox? According to a report to be released Tuesday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2018 the number of jobs requiring a college education will far outpace the number of jobs available to high school graduates and dropouts, and there will be a shortage of workers for those higher paying jobs.

In other words, the jobs that will replace those lost in 2007 and 2008 “will be very different kinds of jobs requiring very different kinds of preparation.”

By 2018, the report says, the U.S. economy will need 22 million new college degrees but will fall short of that number by about 3 million. In addition, there’ll be a shortage of at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates.

“At a time when every job is precious,” the report says, “this shortfall will mean lost economic opportunity for millions of American workers.”

The report includes a state-by-state analysis, and Maryland, as usual, is America in miniature, except that the Free State will require even more workers with graduate degrees than most other states. Maryland, along with the District of Columbia, Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts, will lead the nation in job openings requiring a master’s degree or better in 2018.

Among Maryland highlights:

* Between 2008 and 2018, new jobs requiring postsecondary education and training will grow by 213,000, while jobs for high school graduates and dropouts will grow by 107,000. The bulk of these jobs are in personal and food services – read McDonald’s – and “sales and office support.”

* Maryland ranks 11th in terms of the proportion of its 2018 jobs that will require a bachelor’s degree and 30th in jobs for high school dropouts.

* Two-thirds, 66 percent, of the 2 million jobs in Maryland will require some postsecondary training beyond high school in 2018. This is 3 percentage points above the national average.

In recent years there’s been a backlash against the view that a college education is a necessity in the so-called “postindustrial economy.” The argument goes that people can enter the middle class without a college degree. Besides, there will always be a need for janitors, clerks and factory workers. Doesn’t somebody have to make the iPod, a pluperfect example of a postindustrial product?

All true, counter the Georgetown analysts, but in 2008 high school dropouts earned $14,000, on average, while holders of bachelor’s degrees earned $49,000. And only 20 percent of the value added to the manufacture of video and audio products comes from the blue-collar workers who manufacture them (many in places like China and Mexico). The other 80 percent comes from the college-educated workers who design, market, finance and manage the global production and sales of these products.

President Obama famously pledged 16 months ago that by 2020, “America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” The Georgetown report estimates that just to erase the shortfall in college graduates entering the workforce in the next eight years, America’s colleges and universities would need to increase the number of degrees they confer by 10 percent annually.

Reaching either goal seems doubtful in the current climate. The cost of reaching Obama’s goal of 8.2 million new college graduates by 2010 is about $16 billion a year, a tall order when most states, including Maryland, are struggling just to balance budgets. The Georgetown report calls for a mix of funding and reform, with federal and state governments working in partnership with colleges and universities.

Moreover, many students entering college – or trying to – aren’t prepared for the work. Maryland community colleges, for example, are bursting at the seams, but many of their students are in remedial courses because they lack the basic skills to do college work. The Georgetown report doesn’t cover elementary-secondary education, but there’s no way to fill the pipeline in higher education when so many enter it academically unprepared.

Mike Bowler retired from the Baltimore Sun in 2004 after 34 years at the newspaper as a reporter and editor, much of it covering education. He wrote more than 900 of his “Education Beat” columns for The Sun.
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