The Promise of Middle-Skill Occupations

Publication James R. Stone III, Orville Blackman, and Morgan LewisMay 2010

“High-skill, high-wage, high-demand occupations” is the rhetoric most often employed when describing the aim of workforce development, not only for Perkins-funded programs, but also for many high school reform efforts. The assumption is that all other occupations are “low skill, low wage.” Phrases like “high skill, high wage” conjure up visions of technology-driven occupations that demand baccalaureate degrees or higher, intensive mathematics preparation, and the like. In reality, many states define a high-skill occupation as a job requiring any post-high school education; this may include anything from related work experience to a doctorate. High wage is defined as anything above the median for all occupations. This means jobs that may pay between $30,000 and $40,000 per year are considered high wage. In short, the phrase “high skill, high wage” tends to blur important distinctions in the labor market, distinctions that especially matter when thinking about potential foci for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

Stone, J., Blackman, O., & Lewis, M. (2010). The promise of middle-skill occupations. Techniques, 85(5), 22-25.

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