A new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce analyzes employment and education trends in the South and finds that the southern economy is facing a low-skill trap. The trap is characterized by a “vicious cycle in which low demand for skill in the real economy discourages individuals and employers from developing skill from education, training and on the job skill enhancement.”
The good news is that North Carolina is one of two southern states projected to break away from the southern trend of a dominance of low-skill, low-wage jobs. By 2020, North Carolina is one of two states projected to surpass the 2010 level of jobs requiring post-secondary degrees.
The bad news is that the state continues to struggle with its historic industrial and occupational makeup—a concentration in traditional manufacturing, for example—and the new demand generated from workers moving to the state. The result is that continued attention and investment will be necessary to ensure our workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future.
The report finds that without additional investment to improve the relatively low levels of educational attainment in the South, it will be difficult to develop higher-wage-high-skilled employment and break out of the low-skill trap. This is a particularly disturbing finding in light of the current trends that show state divestment in post-secondary education.