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Demand for skilled jobs expected to grow

Demand for skilled jobs expected to grow

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The issue has been obvious to John Pierce for years.

Pierce, who ran Southeast Community College’s electronics program in Milford, said there were rarely enough graduates to fill the jobs available in fields that require specific training and education -- everything from welders to electronic systems technologists to precision manufacturers.

“We have eight to 12 openings per graduate, especially in these areas,” said Pierce, who is now program chair for a new SCC program in energy generation fields.

Nationally, employers have been talking about a skills gap for years now: a growing number of jobs in fields that require specific post-secondary education, but not necessarily a four-year degree.

An analysis by the International Monetary Fund found the skills gap accounts for about one-third of the U.S. unemployment rate.

Jobs in the health care field -- nurses and technologists that need associate degrees -- will grow by more than 1 million by 2018, a Harvard study reported.

That same study said retiring baby boomers will help boost jobs in construction, manufacturing and natural resources, providing 8 million jobs in the coming years -- 2.7 million of which will require a post-secondary credential.

Several area manufacturers contacted by the Journal Star said they’ve had trouble filling skilled positions for years.

Dream It Do It Nebraska is an organization of the state’s manufacturing businesses created to promote the jobs they have to offer.

An analysis by the Nebraska Department of Labor, which compiles a list of the top 30 high-wage, high-skill jobs, includes many in the manufacturing field in the Lincoln area. The analysis shows projected job openings in those fields growing by up to 34 percent by 2020.

Nick Cusick, who owns Bison Inc., says the state has been so focused on preparing students for four-year colleges that it has overlooked the benefits of other careers.

Many areas have become highly specialized, say instructors like Pierce, but still fight the stigma that such jobs are for those who couldn’t make it at a four-year college.

“Community college is not for dummies, it’s for smart people,” Pierce said. “It's still an ongoing battle, but it’s one that needs to be fought because there’s amazing careers for people who have those skills and interests.”

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Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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