Workforce Development

The Future of Middle Skills in Northwest Arkansas

Companies can’t find employees with the skills they need and, in most cases, those skills don’t come from earning a degree.

A study commissioned by the Springdale Chamber found nearly half of all jobs in Northwest Arkansas will require middle skills by the year 2020. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports middle skills jobs account for the fastest growing segment of occupations in the country. These occupations play a critical role in our economy. But what are middle skills?

You’ll find middle skills careers in nearly every field. Nurses, IT specialists, machinists, skilled tradesmen, and even airline pilots fall in this category. Middle skills careers generally do not require a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll likely need to earn a certification or get additional training after high school.

Despite strong job outlooks, companies are scrambling to find people to fill middle skills positions. As millions of baby boomers retire, few young people are entering these fields. Middle skills careers are often considered blue collar jobs. There’s a misconception that they’re dull, dirty or dangerous jobs relegated to people who aren’t cut out for college. The truth is that a degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job and not everyone needs a degree to be successful.

Many middle skills careers require advanced technical skills, use cutting edge technology and offer starting incomes above what degreed jobs often pay. Middle skills employees form the backbone of our workforce, delivering products, services and technology we rely on daily.

Stakeholders must do more to make sure people understand the opportunities these careers provide. Unless we change perceptions, these jobs will continue to go unfilled and companies will struggle to expand. We need middle skills to keep our economy growing and Northwest Arkansas thriving.

Click here to read more about skilled careers and training in NWA.