THERE ARE MANY PATHWAYS TO QUALITY JOBS
by Katie Condit, Chief Executive Officer, WorkForce Central
December 1, 2022
Figuring out a career isn’t always an easy path. As we grow, so do our interests and passions, and so does the economy.
The job or career that interests us at age 18 may not be something that excites us at age 25 or 30, or even 50. As most of us have experienced, life isn’t always a linear path, and it is imperative that young people understand how critical education, training, and career exploration are.
The idea that we graduate high school, go straight on to get a traditional four-year degree, and then use that degree for the rest of our life isn’t necessarily the right option for everyone or even the path most of us end up taking. To ensure young people are excited and resilient in their pursuit of a meaningful education and career, messaging the multitude of pathways available and the truth that nearly everyone changes direction at least once is critical.
In Pierce County, our local colleges are integral in providing dynamic opportunities for people along their career trajectories. We are fortunate to have an abundance of short and long-term education options through these institutions available for students. Local colleges in our region remain at the forefront of creating innovative certificate and credential options that are essential for students when pursuing quality jobs.
There are many options for young people to explore career connected learning opportunities while in high school and college. The Pierce County Skills Center, where high school juniors and seniors can explore their interests in programs such as culinary arts, criminal justice, automotive technology, or pre-veterinary medicine, is a perfect example. The program runs during the regular school day, and students earn college credits as well as high school credits.
There are also pre-apprenticeship programs and internships available for youth and adults through WorkSource Pierce and a myriad of local community organizations. One of WorkForce Central’s young adult service providers, Palmer Scholars, offers Palmer Pathways, a pre-apprenticeship program that prepares young adults for a career in the trades. The program offers pathways into a variety of trade careers and flexibility to find the right fit.
There are also pathways to high-wage careers with no-cost training programs. WorkForce Central currently supports multiple Industry Training Programs in industries such as Healthcare, Water System Management, and Advanced Manufacturing. These programs offer an “earn while you learn” model, with stipends and support services for people who face barriers to participation.
While apprenticeship enrollment saw a 12 percent decrease in 2020, it rebounded in 2021 with a 9 percent increase nationally, according to the US Department of Labor. Apprenticeship enrollment has also seen a 64 percent increase in the last 10 years. Nationwide in 2021, there were over 593,000 apprentices obtaining the skills they need to succeed while earning good wages to build financial security. Apprenticeship pathways abound in Pierce County and are an important opportunity for young people to consider as they look beyond high school.
There are many opportunities to explore quality jobs, and those pathways are not often linear.
Over the next year, WorkForce Central will be emphasizing the multifaceted pathways people can take into meaningful and quality jobs. We will highlight leaders and members of our community who will share their career journeys and the pathways they took to get where they are today. Each highlight will feature a different pathway and an opportunity to understand just how unique the stories of our current workforce are. We hope that by sharing these stories, we can help shape the course of dialogue for future generations of workers and those currently in the workforce who may be contemplating change.