OUR HIGH SCHOOL principal returned from a teacher recruitment fair and announced to the school board, “Tell your children or grandchildren: Do not get a degree in elementary education.” He went to the recruitment fair looking to hire some very specific specialty teachers for the high school. He mostly met new grads with credentials to teach elementary school—who were looking for jobs that simply don’t exist in our region.
Our superintendent explained that our region had several large, well-known schools of education that turned out far more teachers than were needed locally. But he also noted that this was not a national issue. Ample signing bonuses were available for elementary school teachers in high-growth southern and western states.
New college grads are living in Mom and Dad’s basement because the degrees they earned didn’t translate into jobs. Career planning, preferably conducted in high school, should include an understanding of in-demand jobs. There are certain jobs where the openings greatly exceed the supply and where future growth is expected. In many cases, these in-demand jobs don’t require a college degree—and yet they’re more lucrative than many jobs that do. In our heavy-manufacturing area, employers are begging for welders and machinists. Skilled trades are another in-demand route.
As the elementary school teacher issue shows, “in demand” can vary geographically. As young people think about their career, they need to honestly assess where they’re willing to live. If they’re truly willing to move, it opens up more opportunities. For instance, there might be a huge need for aerospace engineers, but there are just a few specific areas of the country where those jobs will be plentiful.
In Ohio, where I live, the state jobs agency, Ohio Means Jobs, points students and adults to in-demand jobs in our state. Web searches can yield similar information for other states, including Michigan, North Carolina and Colorado. The Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies high-growth occupations from a national perspective. There’s also national data aimed specifically at women in the workforce.
These resources can be a good starting point. Students then need to consider how the data meshes with their skills and aptitude—and whether the location of these jobs matches up with their desires.