Wednesday, February 8, 2012

House committee to discuss workforce needs report in Thursday session

The House Higher Education Committee will hold a workshop Thursday to discuss a new joint report on the state’s future workforce needs, including the challenge to produce more workers trained for high demand occupations in Washington.
The report, a joint effort by the HECB, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board, predicts increased demand for trained workers in a range of employment categories that require postsecondary education.
Titled “A Skilled and Educated Workforce,” the report is the third in a series of biennial reports required by state law to assess forecasted net job openings at each level of higher education and the number of credentials needed to match the forecast of net job openings. A summary of the report's main conclusions was provided at the January HECB meeting.
To meet expected worker demand in the years ahead, the state will need to increase higher education system capacity to produce more trained workers at all education levels, the report notes.  In the past, Washington employers have responded to similar shortages of Washington trained workers by hiring them from other states and countries. 
About two-thirds of job openings in Washington between 2014 and 2019 will require at least a year of postsecondary education. To fill those jobs, an additional 9,000 degree holders above 2010 production level will be needed annually at the mid (two-year) level, 33,000 at the bachelor’s level, and 9,000 annual at the graduate level, the report indicates.
Washington is now well behind meeting increased degree targets set in the 2008 Strategic Master Plan for Higher Education and in a recent plan update adopted by the HECB. The final joint report will be published later this month and also will be available soon on the HECB, SBCTC and WTECB websites.  
The report includes a gap analysis of projected worker shortages in various employment categories requiring various levels of educational attainment.  For example, the analysis projects a relatively large shortage of trained workers to fill installation, maintenance and repair positions that require mid-level degrees between 2014 and 2019.
For positions requiring bachelor’s degrees, the largest gaps between 2010 degree production and future demand are in computer science and engineering, software engineering and architecture. In positions requiring a graduate degree, the biggest gaps are projected in the health professions and computer sciences.    
The report also cites the state’s long-standing shortages of registered nurses as an example of the progress that can be made when the entire system works toward the goal of narrowing the trained worker gap.   Since 2003, the state has increased the annual number of associate and bachelor’s level nursing graduates by over 68 percent. 
“This was possible because state agencies, public and private institutions, labor and the industry remained focused on the nursing shortage over the long term and the Legislature and the Governor provided support for growth in this area.”
A similar emphasis has now been placed on the training of aerospace workers, a development that could lead to substantial progress in filling the needs of that employment area, the report says.