The Inland Empire’s Middle Income Jobs of the Future

Are the educational opportunities in the Inland Empire in line with the future demands of the labor market?

According to a report on the future of middle income jobs, the US as a whole faces a significant mismatch between the skills middle education workers possess and skills required by middle income jobs. In California, there is not only a skills mismatch, but also a disparity in the number of middle income jobs available and the number of people looking for middle income jobs. Whereas for low income and high income jobs there is an oversupply of qualified labor, at the middle income level, there are fewer middle-skilled workers than middle income jobs available. But why is this the case? One of the main culprits would appear to be education.

In the Inland Empire, just under half of all adults have no post-secondary education, and according to a recent Brookings report, 80% of Inland Empire adults with a sub-baccalaureate degree will need to change careers in search of a better or more promising job. Furthermore, many of the IE’s key traditional industries, such as manufacturing, logistics, and construction, are not rapidly growing and are exposed to competition from automation. These trends suggest the necessity of not only educating those without post-secondary education in order to fill the demand for middle income jobs, but also focusing on re-education and training for workers in vulnerable and shifting industries.  

To better understand how well poised the Inland Empire is to meet these challenges, the Lowe Institute compiled a list of middle skill, middle income jobs in California predicted to have the most job openings in the coming years as well as the degree or certificate-offering programs in the region that would prepare workers for these jobs. The list of occupations was compiled by looking at California data from CareerOneStop and selecting those with median salaries of over $56,000, typically requiring an associate’s degree to attain, and with over 1,000 predicted job openings in the next year. Six occupations fit these parameters: web developers, electrical engineering technicians, computer network support specialists, dental hygienists, respiratory therapists, and radiologic technologists. If the Inland Empire gets its population-weighted share of expected job openings in these six occupations, then between 150 and 310 new jobs should be opening up in the region, depending on occupation.

But does the Inland Empire have the capacity to fill this many expected new jobs in these six specific occupations? The Lowe Institute looked at fifteen different institutions, ranging from community colleges, to vocational and trade schools, to for-profit colleges, to see whether or not there are degree and certificate-granting programs being offered that could prepare students for these occupations. Overall, it seems that the Inland Empire is well-placed to educate and train students to move into these occupations. Across the fifteen institutions, there are between four and eight degree or certificate-granting programs for each occupation. For example, one could earn an Associate Degree in respiratory therapy at any of: Platt College, Mt. San Antonio College, Crafton Hills College, San Joaquin Valley College, American Career College – Ontario, or Concorde Career College – San Bernardino.

While the number of programs offered throughout the Inland Empire would seem to be sufficient to meet the expected demand for these six occupations in the region, there is certainly still room for more programs to open. For example, we could expect 310 web development jobs to open in the Inland Empire in the coming year, but there are only four programs, of which two provide locally recognized certificates, to prepare workers to fill these job openings. More generally, it will be important for educational institutions that prepare workers for entry into these middle skill, middle income jobs to continue to adapt their course offerings to align with labor demand. The jobs of today in the Inland Empire won’t always be the jobs of tomorrow, but career and technical education programs can ensure that the workers of today evolve to the workers of tomorrow.

photo: group technology education

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