This shouldn’t surprise anyone: College isn’t for everyone.
That’s not to say education isn’t important. Lifelong learning is vital. We should never stop learning about the world around us.
But the rising cost of a four-year degree and the time commitment to attain one makes going to college an impractical choice for many Central Floridians.
So how does someone who didn’t graduate from a university find a career that pays beyond minimum wage?
Jobs in construction, advanced manufacturing, HVAC and healthcare – sometimes referred to as “middle-skill jobs” – are in high demand. These positions, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree and can pay up to $100,000 per year, make up the largest part of the labor market in the U.S., according to a recent Harvard Business School study.
But many of these jobs, such as radiation therapists, elevator installers and dental hygienists, are going unfilled because there aren’t enough trained workers to meet the demand. As Central Florida’s population and economic influence continue to grow, we as a region must stay competitive by training a local, skilled workforce that’s prepared for the careers of tomorrow.
Goodwill Industries of Central Florida has been a key player in the region for finding employment for those on the margins of society. Over the years, one of the most common job titles for people we’ve placed is cashier – a job in the process of being phased out by technology.
We swipe credit cards at self-service check-outs, we order fast food using computer kiosks and we deposit checks using mobile devices. Technology advances have changed nearly everything in our lives, from how we communicate to how we pay for services.
And looking ahead, the need for entry-level workers will continue to decline.
Here in Central Florida, we must focus on our workforce and begin training our residents for the jobs that will offer advancements and a wage sufficient to meet their basic needs. A recent Heart of Florida United Way study found that 45 percent of the families living in Metro Orlando are struggling to make ends meet and are living paycheck to paycheck.
Meanwhile, our region is poised to continue its economic success for the foreseeable future. For the second straight year, Orlando leads the nation in job growth at 4.6 percent. A recent report from the Orlando Economic Partnership stated that Orlando is adding more than 1,000 positions per week.
Who will fill those roles? If we at Goodwill do our part, it will be your neighbors who fill those jobs. It will also be your friends, your family, your children – and possibly you.
Our role is to support people in starting – or getting back on track with – their educational journeys. Everyone should commit to a life of learning.
For almost 60 years, Goodwill Industries of Central Florida has been a leading nonprofit organization in the region with one goal: providing tools that help people overcome barriers to employment and finding meaningful work.
Education is, and always will be, the key to success. But success isn’t limited to only those with a four-year degree.
Bill Oakley is president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Florida.