The Skills Gap Is Real

Chronicle of Higher Education

To the Editor:

Your recent interview, “Skills Gap ‘Is a Fiction’” (The Chronicle, November 11), represents the best of intellectual diversity. But we do all of higher education a real disservice if we believe the interview, or ignore the importance of middle-skills job.

Yes, most graduates of four-year colleges seek jobs requiring a higher level of skills. Good for them! That ignores data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the National Skills Coalition; and Burning Glass that suggest otherwise.

The National Skills Coalition states that 48 percent of job openings between 2014 and 2024 will be middle-skill jobs. They go on to state that while currently 53 percent of the jobs require middle-level skills, only 43 percent of current workers have such skills. I’d call that a gap.

Burning Glass in partnership with Accenture and the Harvard Business School has produced a strategy to “Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills.”  They call for a focus on middle-skill jobs that: 1.) create a high value for U.S. businesses; 2.) provide both decent wages and a pathway to increased career value; and 3.) are persistently hard to fill.

Our nation’s Career Education Colleges and Universities produced almost 630,000 new professionals in 2016. But this was almost 100,000 less than the projected demand for these middle-skill occupations based upon independent research.

My suggestion is that Boston College continue to focus on four-year degrees leading to higher skills. But don’t deny that a real demand exists for middle skills that is currently not being met.

Steve Gunderson
President & CEO
Career Education Colleges and Universities