Economists warn of a troubling, growing divide between two segments in the U.S.: those who will benefit from and be a part of the emerging global economy, and the many more who will not.
Workers who have the education and training in key technical and interpersonal skills will secure the increasing number of non-routine high- and middle-skill jobs in areas such as health care and personalized medicine; financial management; social media; computer science; robotics; artificial intelligence; wind and solar power; and advanced manufacturing. The greater numbers of those lacking this education and training will lose out, competing for an ever-diminishing number of routine middle- or low-skill jobs, or remaining unemployed.
The impacts of this divide are all around us. A record six million jobs in the U.S. are unfilled due to this growing skills gap. For the first time in history, younger generations, beginning with millennials, are earning less than their parents. In particular, younger males — who complete higher education at lower rates and gravitate toward low-skill industries, such as construction and manufacturing — are faring worse, with higher rates of unemployment and lower earnings than younger women.
Too often, only one solution is seen: more young adults going to college. Parents, teachers and high school guidance counselors direct students to set their sights on a college degree. Policy and higher education leaders repeat the same call. In a recent opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard University, urges us as a nation to “raise the percentage of Americans with degrees.”