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Middle Skills

Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills

June 12, 2015 by Emsi Burning Glass

The decline of middle-skill jobs is hurting both U.S. competitiveness and the middle class—and business should take the lead in turning that around, according to a new report from Accenture, Emsi Burning Glass, and Harvard Business School.

“Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills,” uses Emsi Burning Glass labor market analytics, along with research from Accenture and the U.S. Competitiveness Project at Harvard, to identify the middle-skills jobs that are crucial for American competitiveness—the first report to do so.

At the heart of the issue is an oft-discussed anomaly: while millions of workers remain unemployed and an unprecedented percentage of the workforce report being underemployed, employers across industries and regions find it hard to fill open positions.

Historically, middle-skills jobs—those that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree—served as the springboard into the middle class. Yet many of those occupations are in decline, and wages for others have stagnated.

By examining this problem through the lens of competitiveness, this report shows how the use of information can help both employers and workers. The first, essential step is to differentiate between the vast array of middle-skills jobs in order to concentrate on jobs with three important attributes:

  • They create high value for U.S. business;
  • They provide not only decent wages initially, but also a pathway to increasing lifetime career value for many workers;
  • They are persistently hard-to-fill.

The analysis underscores the need for leaders from business, education, and the political sphere to act in concert to restore growth in America’s middle-skills ranks.

  • Business leaders must champion an employer-led skills-development system, in which they bring the same type of rigor and discipline in sourcing middle- skills talent that they apply to their supply chains. This includes workforce planning to identify skills gaps, ongoing and preferred relationships with talent sources, especially community and technical colleges, and building robust internal training and internship/apprenticeship programs.
  • Educators from community and technical colleges must embrace their roles as employment partners helping their students realize their ambitions by being attentive to developments in the jobs market and employer needs.
  • Policymakers must actively foster collaboration between employers and educators, investing in improving publicly available information on the jobs market, revising metrics for educators and workforce development programs so that success is based on placing students and workers in meaningful employment, and championing the crucial role that middle-skills jobs play in a competitive U.S. economy.

Download the report.

Emsi Burning Glass

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