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TACOMA, Wash. – What do electricians, truck drivers, nurses and insurance agents all have in common?

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s not. Those are four of the “middle skill” jobs in Pierce County that pay more than $20 an hour on average and have a healthy number of openings in our region every year.

“Middle skill” is a bit of a misnomer – these are skilled jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree, but do require some postsecondary training or certification. These jobs make up nearly 40 percent of the local economy in Pierce County, but sometimes get overlooked despite the fact that many have significant earning potential, according to WorkForce Central’s Skilled Jobs in Pierce County: Gaps & Opportunities report.

Shown above are the occupations with the highest deficit of workers in Pierce County and the highest surplus of workers. There is a major shortage of office clerks, but a surplus of web developers in relation to job availability.

This category includes a wide variety of careers, from plumbers, electricians and machinists to pharmacy technicians, teaching assistants and firefighters. Pierce County is facing a labor shortage for many skilled jobs, and workforce demand suggests a need to create training programs to funnel qualified candidates to those in-demand positions.

What’s more, a retirement cliff is on its way: Nearly a quarter of the Pierce County skilled-job workforce is likely to retire over the next 10 years.

These skilled jobs tend to pay well – more than minimum wage to start, and in some cases, six figures once a worker is established in his or her field.

Some examples: Dental hygienists make an average of $41.93 an hour with an associate’s degree in Pierce County. Radiologists make an average of $33.62 an hour. Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers make an average of $22.25 an hour.

In terms of worker shortages, office clerks, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, secretaries and administrative assistants, customer service representatives, and teaching assistants faced the biggest deficit in 2016. That year, there were 985 more openings for office clerks than workers trained to do those jobs.

But it’s important to match supply with demand, and there are occupations in Pierce County that have an over-saturation of trainees with not enough jobs available. That forces workers with those skills to look outside their home county for employment, contributing to our local brain drain: About 48 percent of Pierce County residents commute elsewhere for work each day.

Web developers are at the top of that list: Pierce County produces far more web developer trainees than jobs, though a regional demand beyond our borders (think of the tech giants to the north) is likely the reason people seek training in that field.

Closing the skills gap: Good news for Pierce County. Bates Technical College in Tacoma was just named to Forbes Magazine’s list of the best two-year trade schools in the country.

From the article:

“For the second year, Forbes is ranking the nation’s Top Two-Year Trade Schools, a list of technical and career colleges with high-earning alumni, stand-out graduation and retention rates, and respectable debt repayment scores (full methodology here). The 25 schools on the list cover a myriad of careers that need workers — and in high-paying, high-growth areas, such as aircraft maintenance, funeral services, dental hygiene and drafting.”

WorkForce Central strengthens the Pierce County economy by identifying skill gaps between jobseekers and employment opportunities, fostering data-driven decision making, and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative and effective network.


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