Spokane ranked as nation’s 9th best city for “opportunity occupations,” good jobs without a bachelor’s degree.

Washington continues to generate great private sector employment opportunities, many of which will require postsecondary credentials. For many job seekers, though, the required credential need not be a baccalaureate degree. 

In an examination of “opportunity occupations,” Spokane emerges as one of the best cities in the nation. The Spokesman-Review reports,

Spokane was ranked No. 9 for this type of employment, according to a report by Kyle Fee and Lisa Nelson of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and Keith Wardrip of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

The report explains,

We define an opportunity occupation as one that is characterized by a high degree of opportunity employment — jobs accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree and typically paying above the national annual median wage (adjusted for differences in regional price levels).

S-R reporter Megan Rowe writes,

The report found opportunity employment accounts for 29.7% of Spokane’s share of jobs, whereas employment requiring a bachelor’s degree accounts for 21.1%.

According to the study, 49.2% of Spokane’s workforce falls into the “lower wage” category. In other words, the positions do not pay enough to qualify as “opportunity employment.”

Postsecondary education and training – apprenticeships, community and technical college, trade school – will typically be necessary. From the S-R,

Today, kids might consider Washington apprenticeship programs – which allow them to earn a decent wage while training – as opposed to being saddled with college debt.

Sheldon Bennett, a Carpenters Local 59 representative, said he wishes more kids might consider these apprenticeship programs…

“Apprenticeship is the original four-year degree, you might say,” Bennett said.

At 21 pages (41 with the five appendixes), the research report is accessible and provides valuable perspective on the labor market challenges faced by employers and job candidates. Among the conclusions,

Some occupations will always require a level of training and preparation that can be achieved only through extensive postsecondary study, and, particularly in regional economies where these occupations are concentrated, efforts to make baccalaureate and graduate-level education affordable and accessible for lower-income students are important. For other occupations, however, a stronger societal commitment to shorter-term, lower-cost postsecondary skills development could not only help close the perceived skills gap but also lower employer inhibitions to removing the degree requirement from their job postings in the first place. In light of the number of supervisory positions among the ranks of the largest opportunity occupations, the role of employer-provided incumbent worker training to prepare employees for better-paying managerial positions should not be overlooked. Employers can also play an active role in developing workers’ skills by exploring apprenticeships, a well-known example of the “earn-and-learn” model, and a recent analysis suggests that there is substantial opportunity to expand this model to new occupations. Whether skills are developed and credentials are attained through an apprenticeship, a sector-based career pathways approach, a coding boot camp, or any other means, the sometimes challenging task of engaging employers in both the development of the training curriculum and the hiring of successful participants is critical to success. [Footnotes and references omitted.]

Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton writes of the report,

In examining Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, the study found that only about a quarter of positions were opportunity jobs. Higher-wage jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree were 33% of the mix, while more than 42% were low wage.

The metro ranked 62 out of 121 in the opportunity employment share…

Also, Seattle is unusual among star coastal metros in having substantial sectors (aircraft assembly, ports and maritime, transportation and logistics) that can provide work for those without bachelor’s degrees. This helps to explain why our share of opportunity jobs is higher than the national average.

Another look at the interaction between education and employment can be found at the Calculated Risk blog.

Currently, over 58 million people in the U.S. labor force (25 and over) have a Bachelor’s degree or higher.  This is 41.2% of the labor force, up from 26.2% in 1992.

This is the only category trending up.  “Some college” has declined recently, and both “high school” and “less than high school” have been trending down for some time.

Based on current trends, probably more than half the labor force will have at least a bachelor’s degree around 2030 or so.

Training and education continue to expand opportunity. Calculated Risk concludes,

A more educated labor force is one of the reasons I remain optimistic about the future.