Unmet Need: How might we combine education and work routes to meet the growing need for middle skills jobs?

Mar 15, 2017
Chris Flanagan

Employers of all sizes worry about filling so-called middle-skill positions in advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information tech. These are jobs that require more than high-school diploma but less than a four-year degree. There are roughly 29 million of these jobs, with some 11 million of them paying $50,000 or more a year. But employers have trouble filling them, and in our education system anything that looks like job training is relegated to second-class status.

As we think about the connection between students and industries in our regions that could be served by a greater array of post-high school pathways, here are three programs yielding big time results.

The Apprentice School in Newport News, VA
  • As selective as Harvard
  • Students choose from more than 20 occupational areas & are paid a salary of $54K ($10K above that of the average bachelor’s degree recipient)
  • Graduate debt free
  • Guaranteed a job with military contractor that operates Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Many go on to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
John Deere Dealer Technician Program (National)
  • 15-20 students come through program at various community colleges each semester, all sponsored by a John Deere dealer where students work for 1/2 the program.
  • Typical John Deere tractors have at least 24 embedded computers. Such advanced machines require advanced math and comprehension skills— attributes many students interested in the programs lack.
  • On average, a technician starts at a salary between $31,000 and $39,000 a year.
LaGuardia Community College and Weill Cornell Medicine (NYC-area)
  • Medical billing certificate program, created in partnership with Weill Cornell Medicine.
  • Students attend classes four nights a week for five months, learning technical skills including revenue cycle management and accounting, as well as job-readiness skills such as résumé creation and business communication.
  • Of 22 students who entered first cohort, seven were previously unemployed and the average worker was earning $10 per hour. Graduates have earned $22 an hour on average, or about $45,000 a year.
  • The program counts for nine credits, which can be applied toward an associate’s degree


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