Unprecedented job opportunities in Washington in next five years; Most will go to workers with postsecondary credentials

The Washington economy will provide 740,000 job openings in the next five years, according to a study released today by the Washington Roundtable and the Boston Consulting Group (full report, fact sheet, videomore). But for students in Washington classrooms today to claim those jobs, the study concludes, they will need to earn a postsecondary credential.

Currently, fewer than one-third of Washington students go on to complete a training program or college after high school. That number must double if our students are going to be prepared for the best jobs.

This two-minute video tells the story:

The two organizations partnered to take an in-depth look at the job market in Washington, using publicly available data and hiring projections from Washington Roundtable member companies. Pathways to Great Jobs in Washington State is the most comprehensive analysis of the state’s employment market we’ve seen. And, mixed with the description of the astonishing job opportunities is a clear call for a new approach to education to ensure that Washington students are prepared to succeed in a workplace eager to welcome them.

Here’s the short summary from the report:

There will be 740,000 job openings in Washington in the next five years. State job growth over this period is expected to be nearly three times the national average. The majority of job opportunities—particularly those that will support upward mobility and good quality of life—will be filled with workers who have postsecondary education or training. Recognizing the need to prepare our kids for these opportunities, the Washington Roundtable has set an ambitious goal: By 2030, 70 percent of Washington students will earn a postsecondary credential by the age of 26.

KING 5 reports:

[BCG] found that currently only 31 percent of high school students go on to earn a postsecondary credential by age 26. By 2030, that number needs to be closer to 70 percent, says the study…

“We’re basically 25,000 short of credentialed candidates in the state every year,” says Roundtable president Steve Mullen. “And if those jobs are filled. They’re filled from out of state.”

As the Seattle Times reports. the opportunities can be  grouped in three categories.

About 35 percent of the openings will be what the report labels “career jobs,” or jobs with a salary range of $60,000 to $100,000. More than 90 percent of those workers will need a credential — a bachelor’s degree or other advanced training. 

An additional 45 percent of the openings will be “pathway jobs,” or jobs that pay about $30,000 to $45,000 and offer a path to better pay. About two-thirds of job hopefuls for those positions will need a college degree or credential.

Only about 20 percent of the job openings, labeled “entry level” by the report and paying $20,000 to $30,000 a year, will call for the low level of education most Washington students are achieving today.

Even in the “entry level” category, the study reports, about half the positions will be filled by workers with a postsecondary credential.

To achieve the goal, the report says, Washington must adopt a “cradle to career” approach to education. Four actions are necessary:

  • Improve school readiness, with an emphasis on low-income children and traditionally underserved student populations.
  • Improve the performance of our K–12 system to ensure more
    high school students graduate career- and college-ready,
    with an emphasis on raising achievement among at-risk students and low-performing schools and students.


  • Increase participation of Washington students in postsecondary education, with a focus on delivering degrees, certificates, and other credentials in fields that will be in high demand.
  • Help students, beginning in elementary school, develop better awareness of the careers that will be available, inspiring them to think about their futures, the skills necessary for the jobs that interest them and the pathways to attaining those skills.

In our Achieve priority, we emphasized the importance of postsecondary education. The new research from the Washington Roundtable and BCG underscores the urgency of acting now to help Washington students achieve the success we aspire to for them.

We”ll be mining the reports for more information and sharing it with you over the next several weeks.