The first job - the key to replenishing America's talent pipeline

Friday, September 13, 2019

Target OnlineToday more job openings exist than qualified workers to fill them. Job openings outnumber unemployed people by 1.37 million. It’s clear the U.S. is facing a national workforce shortage of career- and college-ready citizens with the needed, employable skills.

Most of these new jobs are entry-level, requiring a high school diploma, a foundation of math and science, along with some additional training offered by an apprenticeship and other workforce development program. Job seekers who possess the required technical and leadership skills and some work experience are well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.

To obtain work experience, however, there must be job opportunities for younger workers who are just starting out. The truth is, that “first job” has always been designed for younger workers seeking a new skillset.

While they are often low-pay, entry-level employment opportunities, they are vitally important for our younger workforce because they allow people to establish a track record, learn skills and advance over time to better-paying jobs.

Learning skills to earn a “living wage”

For many, an entry-level job at a fast food restaurant or a grocery store helps new workers learn skills and gain valuable experience. They are opportunities to develop the needed skills to demand a “living wage” and ultimately climb the economic ladder into the middle class or beyond.

Job Creators Network launched a campaign, the “Fight for $50,” aimed at protecting and increasing the number of “first jobs” so young people can obtain the skills and experience leading to $50,000 per year or more — including employment in manufacturing, construction, energy, retail management and other career fields.

Replenishing the talent pipeline  

Today, employers are looking for a variety of talents, skills and personality traits in future candidates. Students who gain the basic entry level skills from having that first job and then supplement that experience with career and technical educations while in high school are actually slightly more likely to be employed than their counterparts with just traditional academic credentials.

A Career Technical Education (CTE) - once called a vocational education - is enjoying a resurgence of interest and support. It provides students of all ages with the academic and technical skills, knowledge and training necessary to succeed in future careers, college, and as lifelong learners.

Jarrod Nagurka, advocacy and public affairs manager at the Virginia-based Association for Career and Technical Education, adds “The skills gap makes clear that there are high-skill, high-wage careers, including in the manufacturing sector, that go unfilled every year simply because there is a mismatch between the jobs available and the number of workers in the labor market with the skills to fill them. Career and technical education is critical to fueling the talent pipeline and filling the skills gap, and it offers the opportunity for learners to pursue careers in high-skill, high-wage and in-demand fields across the economy.”

To learn how Newport News Shipbuilding, Ingersoll Rand, Alamo Academies and other industry leaders are closing the growing skills gap while creating opportunities for the next generation of makers through apprenticeships and workforce development programs, attend the Apprenticeships/skilled workforce development panel discussion at AME Chicago 2019 in Chicago this fall.