Education after high school is becoming more and more important in today's work force. Across the U.S. there are more and more middle-skill jobs opening up that do not require a bachelor's degree but do require education beyond high school. Employment data in Minnesota mirrors the national trend and the state is facing an employment gap for these occupations. According to the latest data from the National Skills Coalition, more than half of all Minnesota jobs are middle-skill jobs that typically require a vocational degree.
Right now, our demand in Minnesota is in health care, construction, manufacturing and information technology.
By 2020, only 47 percent of the state's workers are projected to have middle-skill education, while nearly half of the job openings will require middle-skill employees. In turn, the state will be home to industries that will have trouble finding sufficiently trained workers to fill those positions. One avenue to filling those positions is through Career and Technical Education (CTE) at both the high school and postsecondary levels. CTE is an educational model that provides students with industry-specific education and occupational knowledge in industries requiring middle-skilled employees.
Educational trends in Minnesota
Career and technical education traditionally results in a certificate, diploma or associate degree. Examining 2013 postsecondary graduation data from the state of Minnesota revealed that more than 38,000 students graduated with an academic award or degree during the 2012-2013 school year. The associate degree was the most popular option, followed by diplomas and certificates.
- Associate degree: 21,884
- Award of at least 1, but less than 2 academic years: 6,981
- Award of less than 1 academic year: 7,858
- Award of at least but less than 4 academic years: 1,595
Of programs vocational in nature, the most common areas of study included the following:
- Health professions: 12,863
- Liberal arts and sciences: 6,666
- Business and marketing: 3,880
- Personal and culinary services: 2,611
- Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and protective services: 1,753
- Mechanic and repair technologies: 1,387
- Computer and information sciences: 1,297
Employment opportunities in Minnesota
The state of Minnesota divides careers into five fields, with 16 associated clusters: Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources; Human Services; Business, Management and Administration; Health Science Technology; Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology; and Arts, Communications, and Information Systems. Those areas dovetail nicely with the employment areas projected to see the largest employment growth in Minnesota between 2012 and 2022.
Job Growth (2012-22)
Construction and Extraction Occupations
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
Healthcare Support Occupations
Computer and Mathematical Occupations
Community and Social Service Occupations
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
Personal Care and Service Occupations
Business and Financial Operations Occupations
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Projections Central, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
Of the fastest growing individual occupations within those career clusters, nearly half will require some form of college education, according to a review of employment data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. The ten vocational careers expected to see the largest employment gains include the following:
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
Medical Equipment Repairers
Physical Therapist Assistants
Medical and Clinical
Ophthalmic Medical Technicians
Expert advice on technical education in Minnesota with Jessica Lipa
To gain some insight about next steps for students interested in technical or vocational education in Minnesota, we talked with Jessica Lipa, director for career and tech ed with the Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) in Anoka, Minnesota.
What are the benefits of career and technical education?
Career and Technical Education provides students with opportunities for hands-on career exploration in high skill, high wage, and high demand careers of our workforce. Through CTE, students can participate in opportunities that provide an in-depth experience into a variety of necessary careers and explore opportunities and learning practical application into possible career interest areas.
How do you know if CTE is the right type of education for you?
That's one of the greatest benefits of taking CTE courses while still in high school; students can take courses and essentially "try out" a career of interest and see if it is a good fit before entering into a postsecondary program only to find out that it may not be suitable for the student. I would suggest that students talk to teachers, visit career centers, counselors, etc. These are people that have wonderful knowledge of different career paths, can provide opportunities for students to visit with mentors in various industries, and can have students take a variety of inventories to see what the students' interests and abilities are and what careers match those.
What steps can students take to choose the right vocational education path?
Students should consider the following:
- Determined if they have an interest in that particular area
- Visit a career center to find out more about those specific career areas, including information on required education and schooling, specific working conditions, the occupational outlook, and career earnings for that career
- Students should work with teachers, career counselors, etc. to find out if there are additional opportunities to enhance learning, such as tours, mentorships, internships, student organizations
- Take introductory-level courses in high school to become more engaged and gain a better understanding of career opportunities
How do employers view CTE or vocational degrees?
Very positively. Our local employers as well as legislators and other elected officials believe that CTE is a major part of a solution for our workforce and our economy. We are working very closely together to assure that our education systems are providing the best possible education for our students and the future of our state.
Are career fields requiring CTE expected to grow in Minnesota?
Absolutely! We are learning that about 2/3 of all jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education and more than that, close to 60% of those jobs will require a technical skill. Our system has changed dramatically and we need to be preparing our youth for the ever changing demands of our workforce and meeting the needs of our business and industry.
Could you briefly describe any current CTE trends in the state?
Right now, our demand in Minnesota (and projected through 2022) is in health care, construction, manufacturing and information technology. We are seeing more and more need for technical skills and advanced technical skills for our upcoming careers. Minnesota is facing a major workforce shortage so we are partnering very closely between our Workforce Centers, K-12 education systems, Postsecondary Institutions, and Business partners to assure that we are providing a qualified workforce and ultimately, achieve a thriving economy.
Jessica Lipa is a director for career and tech education with the Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP) in Anoka, Minnesota.
- ACTE, Issue Brief, https://www.acteonline.org/uploadedFiles/Assets_and_Documents/Global/files/Publications/Transitions.pdf
- National Center for Education Statistics, http://www.nces.com/ipeds
- Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements Through 2020, https://cew.georgetown.edu/report/recovery-job-growth-and-education-requirements-through-2020/
- National Skills Coalition, Minnesota, http://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/middle-skill-fact-sheets-2014/NSC-Minnesota-MiddleSkillFS-2014.pdf
- Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Job Projections, https://apps.deed.state.mn.us/lmi/projections/
- Interview with Jessica Lipa, 7/16/2015