Wisconsin’s economy is booming, with unemployment near all-time lows and employers desperate for qualified workers. This is great news for young people just entering the workforce, who are affected for a very long time by the economic conditions of their initial job years.
For many years, the K-12 system has been focused on college for all. Yet, Harvard University predicts that 57 percent of the jobs in the future will require skilled training or certification, not a college degree. The industry needs college-educated individuals but a large percentage of construction careers require advanced training through apprenticeship, technical training and certification programs.
Studies like the Pathways for Prosperity by the Harvard Graduate School for Education emphasize the need for more post-secondary education or training to equip young people with the skills and credentials to make successful transitions into the labor market. Career exploration and preparation is now taking center stage in education, and at just the right time for our industry, as 47 percent of Generation Z would consider entering the workforce straight from high school and 60 percent welcome employers offering education in their field in lieu of a college degree.
The Federal House Education & Workforce Committee is currently preparing legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), and the committee could act on it before the end of the year. The HEA is the law that provides funding for federal student financial aid – about $130 billion a year in loans and Pell Grants – and in the past, the overwhelming lion’s share of that money has gone to students in traditional academic programs rather than workforce or career education.