CT Faces Bumpy Decade Tapping Youthful Labor

June 30, 2011 | Hartford Business Journal |  Link to article

More grim news for Connecticut employers already struggling to land youthful talent: The state's aging population will churn out fewer young, skilled faces over the coming decade to sustain its workforce, a fresh policy study says.

In turn, that will put a premium on plying older workers with the post-secondary education and training that employers will demand by 2020, according to the study's producer, the Center For Law & Social Policy (CLASP) in Washington D.C.

CLASP says the number of American high school graduates is expected to remain flat between 2010 and 2020. But in Connecticut, the projected number of high school grads is expected to drop by 10.1 percent from its 2010 level.

The CLASP report coincides with a recent survey from the Connecticut Business & industry Association indicating the state's aging manufacturing workforce at 40 years and older has been compromised by the shrinking pool of younger, skilled replacements.

Connecticut is one of just seven states -- mostly in New England, Midwest, West and the District of Columbia -- with a projected decrease in the number of high school graduates of 10 percent or more, said CLASP study co-author Vickie Choitz,

"We just don't have the bodies of people coming through the [education] pipeline like we used to,'' said Choitz, a senior policy analyst at CLASP, a self-described nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank focused on the needs and issues of low-income families and individuals.

By 2018 the demand for college-educated workers will rise 16 percent, while demand for other workers will stay flat. 

At the same time, nearly two-thirds of jobs in 2018 will require some postsecondary education or training.

In Connecticut, CLASP says, between 2008 and 2018, labor demand will increase almost three times as much for college-educated workers (85,000 additional jobs) as for high school graduates and dropouts (31,000 additional jobs).

Both Connecticut and the nation need more college-educated workers to fill demand for skilled workers, Choitz said.

In addition, the need has risen for workers with education certificates from one-year training programs and two-year community colleges.

One of the cornerstones of that education effort, Choitz said, is preserving the Pell Grant funding the federal government for decades has offered to help needy individuals get skills training and a college education.

Pell Grant funding, currently at an $11 billion deficit, is being threatened by budget pressures in Washington, she said. Loss of or severe reduction in the grants would undermine America's post-secondary education foundation at a time when it's needed most.

"The business community should be screaming loud,'' Choitz said, "to ensure that there is some federal investment in developing the skilled workers of the future.''

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