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Skilled Workforce Development Is a Growing Need in Cumberland County

Skilled Workforce Development Is a Growing Need in Cumberland County

As the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, Cumberland County offers employment in a host of growing industries. Many of these industries require technical knowledge and expertise not taught at traditional four-year colleges, but most young people across the country are pushed towards completing a conventional bachelor’s degree. As a result, skilled trade employers find it increasingly difficult to fill positions, while many college graduates are unable to find jobs.

So why do young people have such a disinterest in middle-skilled employment if there’s such a large untapped job market? To answer that question, we  partnered on a study to get a better understanding of how local educational institutions, parents and students view career opportunities that don’t require traditional degrees.

Our Research on the Skilled Workforce

CAEDC partnered with Leadership Cumberland to implement a study with three local school districts — Cumberland Valley, Carlisle and West Shore.

We put together an assessment survey to get information from parents, students and educators, which the superintendents of the school districts distributed using an online tool. Each participant group answered ten questions. We then analyzed the responses of 2,400 students, 940 parents and 371 educators — as well as the answers to in-person interviews we conducted with educators at the school districts.

Our goal in completing this research was to learn more about the thoughts and opinions of the people in Cumberland County on skilled career opportunities. We also hoped to better understand how schools can implement career options that will create an interest in middle-skilled occupations.

Our Research Findings By the Numbers

The survey’s results show that students look to their parents when selecting a career path, but many parents lack professional information regarding their child’s career options. We found the following statistics on a student’s influencers toward choosing a career:

  • 65 percent of students felt most comfortable talking to their parents about their career decisions, but almost a quarter of parents believed they lack the information necessary to help their child make an informed decision
  • 69 percent of parents said that the career information they give their child is based on personal experience
  • 75 percent of parents said they believe attending a vocational school could lead to a job with a sustainable wage, but 54 percent also said they still think it’s necessary for their child to go to college to make a living wage
  • 64 percent of students felt the need to go to college to earn a living wage

While the research indicates that a large percentage of parents and students alike believe that a college degree is necessary, the truth is that millions of jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree. In fact, many of the largest employers in Cumberland County don’t expect applicants to hold a traditional degree, and only 33.9 percent of the county’s labor force holds a bachelor’s degree or higher. This disconnect between facts and opinions shows a clear need for more focused education on the benefits of nontraditional occupations.

What Changes Can Be Made?

So what can educators do to raise awareness of the value of middle-skilled occupations? Many solutions can influence students to find a sustainable career that meets their needs. Here are four ways that school districts and workplaces can work together to better educate students on their career options.

1. Align Student Strengths With Correct Career Paths

According to survey results, 59 percent of parents and 75 percent of educators said their students don’t know what careers they want to pursue. An assessment program can help young people make this important decision before they go to school for a job they don’t like.

Workforce development programs evaluate students’ strengths and interests to help them avoid choosing the wrong career path. Educators can use these programs to help students discover their strengths, research career options and find the best pathways to transform interests into thriving lifelong careers.

2. Embed Information About Career Paths Into the Curriculum

Most students go through their elementary, middle and high school years without being informed about career options outside of traditional secondary education. If students received proper education about their available career options, they’d likely be more excited about pursuing skilled employment.

Schools can embed career awareness — as well as information on the education required to enter a skilled workforce — into their curriculum to give students a chance to learn about their options throughout their lifetime. By learning about their available options from a young age, young adults will feel more confident about choosing a middle-skilled career after graduation.

3. Incorporate Additional Programs for Apprenticeships and Internships

About 95 percent of students surveyed saw the value in apprenticeships, internships or earning college credit instead of completing a traditional senior year of high school. However, few high schools or employers offer such programs. Partnerships between employers and educational institutions in the form of training programs and internships can help students obtain experience that could benefit them in their future career plans. These programs can also help employers find new talent and grow their workforce more quickly.

4. Lobby State and Federal Delegation for Funding

Most schools don’t have the funds necessary to implement long-term workforce development programs, curriculums or internships on their own. Parents, educators and committees can lobby delegates to increase funding for vocational schools and programs.

Contact CAEDC for More Information on Cumberland County’s Workforce Development Initiatives

Cumberland County is home to thriving skilled industries, and we encourage you to continue learning about the area’s extensive offerings of skilled employment.

To learn more about the results of our study or for more information on skilled workforce development, contact us today. We offer a variety of resources and services for students, parents, businesses and educational institutions throughout Cumberland County, and we’ll be happy to help you learn more about middle-skilled career opportunities.

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