January 9, 2011/Lansing State Journal
There's growing optimism about hiring in key growth sectors of the Greater Lansing economy, including health care, financial services and technology.
Still, today's LSJ report on the region's job market captures sobering realities - facts that should make everyone more focused on the value of education.
Start with a drop of 12,000 jobs in the region between 2007 and November 2010 (the most recent statistics). Consider that many of the jobs in growth sectors require specialized education, usually at the college level. And the best jobs want that education along with experience in the field. The unskilled worker faces a daunting market.
The region's November unemployment rate dropped to 8.7 percent - down from 11 percent in November 2009. Yet that came with a cautionary footnote about discouraged workers who have stopped looking.
Against this back drop, education has never been more vital. For the unemployed, retraining may be a lengthy but necessary path. And it must be carefully pursued. Training for the wrong field could bring bitter disappointment.
Take nursing, for example, where there is a shortage of experienced critical-care nurses, but weak demand in the immediate future for new graduates. Thus, it may be a good choice for current middle and high school students to consider, but not so good for a victim of the recession who decided to pursue nursing school now. Indeed, much of the growth in health care will be in the lower paid categories of home care and short-term care at $9 to $10 per hour.
There are similar tales in other sectors. Finance and insurance need experienced information technology professionals, who might make up to $70,000. A customer service rep can expect $30,000.
Everyone in Greater Lansing can help build economic prosperity by focusing on education. Pursue it personally - press to acquire new skills and knowledge, the next level of learning. Equally important, encourage education for others. Employers can join the "Keep Learning" initiative at learnforourfuture.org. Anyone can encourage young people. More high school students must understand that training beyond their diploma is vital.
For the educated, there is optimism. A 2010 study by Capital Area Michigan Works found that the professional, scientific and technical services sector - this region's "creative" class - will be the fastest growing local jobs sector through 2016. Yes, those jobs require college degrees.
An LSJ editorial