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Higher Education and the Labor Market

Washington's colleges and career training programs benefit our state, regional, and local economies by:

  • Providing a trained and educated workforce with the skills employers need.
  • Addressing the changing educational demands of an evolving society.
  • Collaborating with business, industry, and government to drive innovation.
  • Conducting research that spurs business creation and expands jobs.

Higher Education and Labor Market Alignment

An educated workforce is vital for a prosperous society. In Washington, nearly 70 percent of all projected job openings require at least some education beyond high school. Two-thirds require a certificate, associate degree, or higher. For this reason, it is imperative to align education outcomes with labor market demands.

Every two years, the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board produce Washington's Skilled and Educated Workforce Report. The report: 

  • Assesses the state of workforce preparation in the state.
  • Identifies fields in which degree completions may not be meeting employer demand.
  • Highlights fields with expanding job opportunities.

Reskilling and Upskilling

Opportunities to reskill and upskill are crucial for workers’ career stability and advancement.

  • Reskilling is learning a new set of skills or obtaining a credential in another field. The goal is transitioning to a different job or industry.
  • Upskilling is learning additional skills, enhancing abilities, or acquiring new credentials within one's field. The goal is to increase duties and wages in the same line of work. 

These options are critical for workers who may be displaced due to the pandemic. WSAC’s report, Strategies for a Changing Labor Market: Reskilling and Upskilling for Career Advancement in the Post-COVID-19 Economy, highlights the importance of seamless credential pathways. The report presents recommendations to ensure workers can access these opportunities for a sustained and equitable recovery.

The Value of Higher Education During the COVID-19 Recovery

Education beyond high school offers critical opportunities for Washingtonians, particularly unemployed workers, to adjust to a changing labor market. WSAC’s report, Lessons on Recovery: The Value and Potential of Higher Education in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis:

  • Presents lessons from the Great Recession and observations around students' and workers' experiences during the current crisis.
  • Highlights COVID-19's disproportionate impact on marginalized populations.
  • Discusses priorities to address educational inequities and economic challenges worsened by the pandemic.

Maintaining Investment in Higher Education During a Time of Crisis outlines the crucial advantages that education beyond high school brings to the COVID-19 recovery:

  • Higher education increases earnings and decreases unemployment.
  • Many workers who have lost jobs need more education to reenter the labor market.
  • Investing in higher education supports economic mobility. This is critical for people of color, who are being impacted disproportionately by the current crisis.