Utah Workers Need More Education For Post-Pandemic Economy

Jul 14, 2020

Students Of Color Have The Greatest Risk Of Being Behind In Post-High School Education And Certificate Programs
Credit Rob/AdobeStockPixnic

As the nation struggles to recover from the economic downturn amid the coronavirus pandemic, workforce experts are calling on Utah and other states to ramp up efforts to ensure that more workers have post-high school education and certificates. 

 "As we've entered into this horrid pandemic recession, certifications are going to become very core to some of our re-skilling and re-employment efforts," Jeff Strohl said.  Strohl is with the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said fewer than half of Americans between ages 25 and 64 hold credentials beyond high school.  In Utah, the post-high school attainment level is higher than the national average, at 56-percent, but according to state employment officials, 75-percent of all jobs in the state require some kind of post-secondary credential or degree. Students of color are at greater risk of being left behind.  The Lumina Foundation has launched a new tool to help track attainment levels by state. Courtney Brown, with the foundation, said one key to improving outcomes for workers is to give high school and college counselors better training, so they can steer students to certificate programs with skills that will help them get jobs.  "People with certifications, and no other postsecondary credentials, are more likely to be employed than those without them. We know that they make higher salaries, are more likely to be promoted, and have greater job satisfaction than those without," she said.  Brown said certifications are not just for recent high school graduates; they can also help magnify or refresh a worker's skills to keep them competitive.  The U-S, once a leader in post-high school education attainment, is now ranked tenth behind countries that include South Korea, Canada, Lithuania and the United Kingdom.