Employers face education gap in workforce


The number of workers with bachelor’s degrees in North Dakota and Minnesota falls short of employers’ demand for that education credential, according a recent study.
A new report released last month by Achieve, an education reform organization, reveals a large gap between the number of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and the number of adults who have that degree.

Based on recent data, 34 percent of jobs in North Dakota require a bachelor’s degree, but only 18 percent of adults 25 and older have a degree, according to the report. In Minnesota, 50 percent of jobs require a bachelor’s degree while 19 percent of adults have one.

The report, which details the college and career readiness of high school students in each state, claims too few high school graduates are prepared to succeed in college, the military and in a career. The findings are based on state test scores, academic growth benchmarks, graduation rates and other information.

The Washington, D.C.-based Achieve was involved in developing the Common Core State Standards, which North Dakota adopted for math and English in 2010.

Barry Wilfahrt, president of the Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, said the state is facing a job shortage in every category and every education level, though some fields such as engineering are especially in need of four-year degree holders.

“Even in Grand Forks today, there’s a tremendous workforce shortage across the board in our community, and it’s going to continue to be one of the biggest challenges (we face),” he said.

North Dakota students’ preparedness for college is not clear, as some state data in the report is incomplete. The state has a relatively high graduation rate—87 percent—compared with other states and high student interest in postsecondary education, but a significant percentage of graduates still require remedial classes.

Forty percent of the state’s high school students who graduated between 2008 and 2013 and enrolled in a two-year institution afterward required remedial classes, while 28 percent of those who enrolled in four-year institution required those classes, according to the report.

Job market need

While employers see a shortage of workers with bachelor’s degrees, it is a different situation for jobs requiring only high school diplomas.

Adults with only a diploma outnumber the jobs requiring that education level. In North Dakota, 52 percent of workers have a high school diploma, while 46 percent of jobs necessitate it.

There are more adults with the credential—52 percent of workers—than the share of jobs requiring it, which was 46 percent in North Dakota. In Minnesota, 53 percent of workers had a diploma, compared with 33 percent of jobs with that requirement.

The percentage of jobs in both states requiring graduate or professional degrees and associate degrees nearly matched the percentage of graduates who had the credentials.

Education and job market data was based on the 2013 American Community Survey and 2014-15 job posting data from Burning Glass Technologies, a company that provides job market analytics for businesses and educators.

Districts in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, as well as throughout the state, have long pushed more students to participate in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, activities. According to the report, 61 percent of STEM jobs in North Dakota require a bachelor’s degree or higher, while 71 percent require it in Minnesota. In North Dakota, STEM jobs represent 23 percent of all jobs in the state, including ones related to health care. In Minnesota, STEM jobs represent 26 percent of all jobs.

The report states that as the STEM job market continues to grow, students need a rigorous K-12 education to better position them for their future career or college path.

“In today’s knowledge-based economy, more jobs than ever require a postsecondary credential,” it states. “The increasing demand for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs may, in part, explain the demand for workers to be more educated than ever before.”

The report also noted the number of North Dakota students enrolled at postsecondary institutions after they graduate high school. Of students who graduated in 2010, 69 percent enrolled in a two- or four-year North Dakota University System institution within 16 months of graduating. The 2010 graduates also had a low dropout rate—78 percent stayed in school for at least one year or returned to postsecondary education for a consecutive year or term.

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