Editorial: Add to training before graduation if diploma is OK

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 11, 2020

While some of its results may seem like dated news, a labor market survey of manufacturers conducted by the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance produced at least one surprising result.

The alliance surveyed 106 businesses in the Charlotte area between July and September. Those surveyed represent 15% of the total workforce in the region. Rowan County represented the highest response rate of any county that participated.

An estimated 75% of respondents had unfilled positions, which is understandable in a tight labor market. Other predictable results include that the most significant hiring problem is a lack of qualified candidates and people with a lack of skills.

It was surprising, though, to see in the study that a majority of respondents said a high school education is OK for most of the workforce, especially since respondents said many applicants don’t have the right skills for open jobs. More specifically, the study asked what level of education was needed for 75% of the workforce, and 60% of respondents said “high school degree.” Even more surprising, 20% of respondents said that something less than a high school degree was sufficient.

Does the combination of findings mean that manufacturers are having trouble even finding people with a high school degree? Maybe “high school degree” is a generic response and the actual qualifications depend on the person? Or, are jobs that require high school degrees full and, therefore, the open jobs require something more than that?

Whatever the case, we wouldn’t recommend any local student stop their education after high school graduation. Post-graduation certificate programs, a two-year degree and a four-year degree all will increase someone’s earning potential. Stopping at high school could only limit a person’s future.

But if graduation is the end, newly minted graduates should have certifications and real-life work experience to put on their resume. That requires Rowan-Salisbury Schools to use its renewal flexibility to add to offerings that provide workforce training for high schoolers. Not all students will need or want workforce training for manufacturing jobs, but ensuring those offerings are available will go a long way toward reassuring employers that locals have the right skills.