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Friday, October 17, 2014

MaryBeth Matzek: Job growth coming in areas that don’t require four-year degree


By MaryBeth Matzek
Parents want the best for their kids and for most of them, the “best” includes a traditional four-year college. But that scenario may leave students with a mountain of debt and few job offers. When it comes to job opportunities, the highest growth levels are in areas that don’t necessarily require a four-year degree – health care, manufacturing and construction trades.

“The way our education system is set, encouraging all kids to go to college doesn’t necessarily fit with what’s going on in the workforce,” says Buckley Brinkman, executive director of the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership. “That’s not to say education past high school isn’t necessary. Rather it’s more specialized programs, such as associate degrees or programs designed for a particular job.”

Manufacturers, for example, have difficulty finding CNC machinists and welders; both professionals pay well. As the manufacturing workforce ages and Baby Boomers hit retirement age, there will be more opportunities available. “In a couple of years, we are going to have a lot of retirements, are there going to be enough workers to take their place?” Brinkman says.

The construction and trades industry is also desperate for workers. Skilled trades is the No. 1 area where companies need workers, according to the 2014 ManpowerGroup Talent Shortage Survey. A career in those areas again doesn’t require a four-year education, with training gained on the job or through a technical school program. Faith Technologies Inc. in Menasha, for example, offers its own in-house training program.

“We can take a high school graduate and put him to work and put him through our own training program and once the employee reaches journeyman status, it’s possible they can be making $50,000 or $60,000 a year,” says Stephanie Guin, executive vice president-human resources for the specialty and electrical contractor with operation in six states. “And they get paid the whole time they are learning the trade and there’s no student debt.”

Health care is another area clamoring for employees. As Americans get older, they have more health needs and more employees are needed to meet those needs. Nurses, CNAs and home health aides are just a few of the areas seeing demand and students can get all of those jobs with either an associate’s degree or a program degree. For nurses who earn an associate’s degree and interest in pursuing further education, their employer may even pay for them to go on to get their bachelor’s degree.

With the average person expected to go through multiple careers in his or her lifetime – the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a 2012 report that people have an average of 11.3 jobs between the ages of 18 to 46 – Brinkman says it makes sense for more high school students and young adults to look first to a technical college rather than a traditional four-year college. “I think we’re definitely going to see a shift as people realize that getting a four-year degree isn’t for everyone and that it’s important to look at the end cost – will you get a job that will allow you to pay your student loans?”

That answer may be yes for an engineering major, but not necessarily for a yes for someone with a liberal arts degree.

Boards getting more diverse

Corporate boards in Wisconsin are becoming more diverse, according to a report released this week by the Greater Milwaukee Committee and Milwaukee Women inc.

The report says one in 10 board members of Wisconsin companies are non-white while 15.5 percent of board members are female, up from 14.3 percent in 2013.

The two groups also announced a new CEO to CEO initiative led by ManpowerGroup chairman Jeff Joerres and Wisconsin Energy Corp. CEO and chair Gale Klappa to encourage business leaders to add more gender and racial diversity to their corporate boards.

Engineering boost in Sheboygan

The University of Wisconsin-Sheboygan recently broke ground on a $1.5 million engineering building. The 7,000-square-foot building will include classroom and lab space for students participating in the collaborative engineering degree program with UW- Platteville and UW-Sheboygan pre-engineering students.

The program with Platteville allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering onsite in Sheboygan. The new building is expected to open by the start of the 2015-16 school year.

-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.

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