Why your career advice may be outdated

By Susan Pohorski

What year did you graduate from high school? Were you a member of the class of 1985 with The Breakfast Club or 1986 like Ferris Bueller? 

Let’s take a trip back in time like Marty McFly. In the 1980s, technology made many careers obsolete. Punch card data entry, fax machine operator, telephone operator—these jobs all went away. Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) replaced manual drafting.

The economy was recovering from the 1981-82 recession and more people were employed than previous years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics employment growth was greatest for office workers, particularly highly skilled executives, administrators, and managers. Services and retail trade were strong. 

When U.S. News and World Reports Best Colleges rankings premiered in 1983 the top ten college majors were:

  1. Business Analytics
  2. Human Resources Management
  3. Education
  4. Dietetics and Nutrition Sciences
  5. Biomedical Engineering
  6. Forensic Sciences
  7. Speech-Language Pathology
  8. Graphic Design
  9. Computer and Information Sciences
  10. Nursing

Climb back into the flux capacitor and come back to 2015. What are high school students facing in this century? 

Yes, the economy is recovering again. Unemployment is down and employers are hiring, but what skills are they looking for? According to CareerBuilder the highest number of job openings are in marketing, due to the emergence of social media. Software developers are also in high demand and nursing continues to be a good career choice. However, truck drivers are also in high demand with many openings going unfilled. 

Other careers that don’t require a bachelor’s degree, but have gaps between job openings and hires are: 

  • Merchandise displayer
  • Nursing assistants
  • Sales Rep, Wholesale and Manufacturing
  • Purchasing Manager
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technician 

Times have changed for your children. Are you giving them the same career advice your parents gave you? “Get a bachelor’s degree and you’ll get a good job.” 

Maybe it’s time to rethink that advice. Today, you get a bachelor’s degree and you get a lot of student loan debt. You might get a job that pays those loan payments. 

What advice is U.S. News and World Report giving now? “Careers in fields such as health care, manufacturing and information technology offer median earnings of up to $55,000 or more for graduates with an associate degree,” wrote Kelsey Sheehy in a recent blog post. “In some cases, a two-year degree or technical certificate can offer students a better return on investment than a four-year degree.” 

Sheehy points to four degrees from community or technical colleges that lead to good paying careers: engineering technology, radiation technology and medical imaging, plumbing and heating and dental hygiene. 

What will the world be like when your son or daughter graduates from college? How much debt will they have? What will their job prospects be? How should young people prepare for their futures?

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) has initiated the Future Wisconsin Project, an effort to predict and prepare for changes in Wisconsin’s economy. WMC in partnership with the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and Department of Workforce Development, wants to answer questions like those.

Dennis Winters, Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development economist, says training will be key to success in the future of Wisconsin. Young people cannot just expect to get jobs because Baby Boomers are retiring. They will need the right skills to replace aging workers. 

“As a nation, we must transform the view of a technical degree from being a consolation to an aspiration,” wrote Nick Pinchuk, chairman and chief executive officer of Snap-On Incorporated, a recent article titled “The Strength of America: It’s in the American Workforce and Technical Careers.”

This begins with parents. Encourage your children to explore all post-secondary education opportunities so they don’t end up wishing they had a time machine to do it all over again. They can start at wistechcolleges.org

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