One of the biggest roadblocks for the underemployed in finding better work is simply not knowing where the opportunities are—an information gap that’s well illuminated in a recent Bloomberg article. Another challenge is deciding whether to acquire new skills; it’s difficult to invest in training without some evidence that it will make a real impact on your career.
This dilemma, however, is one that middle-skill jobs are perfectly suited to solve.
Middle-skills jobs—those that take more than a high-school diploma and less than a bachelor’s degree—are projected to account for nearly 40% of all job growth from 2013 to 2017, as USA TODAY recently documented with local data from EMSI. These jobs are frequently available in swarms at a time, they tend to pay well, and while they still require hard skills, they don’t require the typical four years of education. The work that JPMorgan Chase is doing in New York City is a good example of this.
Almost a year ago, EMSI began working with JPMorgan Chase on its New Skills at Work initiative, a $250-million effort aimed at closing the skills gap in the 100 largest U.S. metros (see our initial skills gap briefing). EMSI consultants have partnered with Chase to analyze middle-skill labor market demand in nine metros, focusing on specific industries in each metro. The first of these reports, looking at the skills gap for New York City, was published in late October.
The report zeroed in on middle-skills jobs based on their high demand and the likelihood that they will serve as strong starts in even stronger careers, especially in the healthcare and technology sectors:
NYC’s top six industry categories based on the total number of employees in the sector are Healthcare, Financial and Insurance Services (Finance), Education, Multimedia Entertainment, Computer and Information Services (Technology), and Corporate Headquarters. Preparing job seekers for employment in these industries will ensure continued economic growth for the city and economic opportunities for more New Yorkers.
Of the identified industries, healthcare and technology represent the largest sectors in terms of current jobs (healthcare) and projected growth (technology) and they have a strong concentration of high-demand and high-growth, middle-skill occupations.
With a million jobs each in 2014, healthcare and technology have both seen healthy growth over the last four years and are projected to grow impressive amounts over the next five years as well: 14% for healthcare and 15% for technology, per EMSI projections.
In short, middle-skills jobs in NYC are highly concentrated in both the healthcare and technology sectors. The report also highlighted the fact that “middle-skill technology occupations cross multiple industry sectors.” Take, for example, this chart showing the distribution of technology-related occupations in those top six industries:
The report goes on to highlight the wages of these jobs, noting “Healthcare also has a wide range of middle-skill occupations and many occupations pay a living wage.” As the data illustrates, many of the job in these groupings are in high demand, projected to grow, and pay comparatively well. In fact, there are 35 middle-skill healthcare occupations with average earnings of $25 per hour in the region. Like we noted at the beginning, this is essential information for the underemployed—as well as to the unemployed and students looking for a career.
What is the takeaway from all of this? The report concludes that the current NYC talent supply pipeline is not sufficient to meet current demand for middle-skill workers in healthcare and technology and made three main recommendations:
- Clarify opportunities and expectations for middle-skill occupations in the healthcare and technology sector
- Ensure pathways align with these expectations
- Integrate these strategies into the larger policy and systemic efforts in the city
If NYC focuses on these jobs and dedicates resources to training for them, it will take a big step in overcoming another challenge: the city’s so-so employment growth, below that of the national average.
When everything is said and done, concentrating on middle-skills can lead to a win-win-win for individuals, businesses, and their cities, a fact that has evidently not been lost on the local NYC political leadership. Mayor Bill de Blasio has called upon the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force to redesign the workforce development system in NYC to suit in-demand occupations. With the JPMorgan Chase initiative, they have a key tool for identifying the industries and occupations that could help New Yorkers find—and prepare for—great jobs.