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Skilled Workers in Washington State: The Gap Between Supply and Demand

February 26, 2012

In 2004, the Washington State Legislature directed three state agencies to jointly produce a report every two years which summarizes “the number of forecasted net job openings at each level of higher education and training and the number of credentials needed to match the forecast of net job openings.”

The most recent report, A Skilled and Educated Workforce: 2011 Update, was released last week. In summary, it shows a significant gap between the number of skilled and educated workers graduated from state universities and the demand for such workers. A key chart from the report summarizes the gap by education level as projected from 2014 to 2019: Supply and Demand.

This report is in line with projections from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. According to the Executive Summary of Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018

America is slowly coming out of the Recession of 2007—only to find itself on a collision course with the future: not enough Americans are completing college. The Georgetown Univer­sity Center on Education and the Workforce shows that by 2018, we will need 22 million new college degrees—but will fall short of that number by at least 3 million post­secondary degrees, Associate’s or better. In addition, we will need at least 4.7 million new workers with postsecondary certificates. At a time when every job is precious, this shortfall will mean lost economic opportunity for millions of American workers.

This shortage is the latest indication of how crucial postsec­ondary education and training has become to the Ameri­can economy. The shortfall—which amounts to a deficit of 300,000 college graduates every year between 2008 and 2018—results from burgeoning demand by employers for workers with high levels of education and training. Our calcu­lations show that America’s colleges and universities would need to increase the number of degrees they confer by 10 percent annually, a tall order.

The report points to the computer as the “core mechanism” driving the demand for increased education among workers.

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