Friday, September 14, 2012

Key Workforce Challenge: Connecting Training to Workforce Needs

There are many factors that affect the balance of workforce supply and demand; training and educational attainment is among them. To help minimize the gap between the skills and training sought by employers and those held by job seekers, it is essential that workforce-related training be tailored towards the actual needs of businesses. Connecting training to workforce needs is one of Oregon's key workforce challenges.

To remain competitive, especially in the current economic climate, many workers are going back to school or taking some sort of training to refresh or supplement their skills. Enrollment levels at Oregon's community colleges and universities have continued to climb since the start of the recession, while the share of Oregonians age 25 and over with "some college or Associate degree" increased 2.6 percentage points between 2007 and 2010.

However, simply having enough people with degrees does not imply there are enough of the right types of degrees. Unemployment rates among graduates with degrees in some of the most popular majors in the U.S. were estimated by Georgetown University. Those with health care and related degrees are generally less likely to be unemployed than those with liberal arts degrees. Much less common degrees like science, engineering, math, and technology had extremely low jobless rates over the 2009-2010 period: physical science comes in at 2.5 percent, while math and computer science clocks in at 3.5 percent.

Overall, Oregon's population has roughly the right education levels to meet businesses' job needs. However, new graduates face an extremely tough job market. The Oregon Employment Department's most recent job vacancy survey revealed that the unemployed outnumbered available jobs by a ratio of six-to-one in the fall of 2011. Given the current economic climate, college graduates who chose the "right" degree are more likely to find jobs.

For more details on this key workforce challenge, check out the full article, written by Occupational Economist Brenda Turner and Employment Economist (and co-blogger!) Katharine Williams

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