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Workforce Readiness

Survey: Prospective Students Eye Career & Workforce Landscape When Deciding Their Futures

According to nonprofit ECMC Group's latest Question The Quo Education Pulse survey of 14- to 18-year-olds, high-schoolers are paying attention to the career landscape and workforce shortages, and they're looking for the fastest, least expensive route to careers in high-demand fields.

About three-fourths of the 5,300 students surveyed over the last two years said they've heard about worker shortages, and half said they're no longer considering four-year college, according to the report from ECMC.

Less than half of respondents said they believe a four-year degree will make them successful, and a third said they're planning to forge a shorter pathway to their future career.

"The most stunning finding for me has been how insightful, intuitive and engaged this demographic is when it comes to understanding the career landscape, the impact of student debt and the options available to them in the current environment," said ECMC Group President and CEO Jeremy Wheaton.

Other key findings include:

  • Less than half of respondents said they feel prepared for college.
  • 75% of high-schoolers have a career in mind and 74% believe it is important to have their career plans determined when they graduate from high school.
  • 73% think a direct path to a career is essential in post-secondary education.
  • 39% have taken classes on career exploration or have participated in a program to help them determine future career paths.
  • 86% believe businesses should support education by providing formal education and providing additional money to pay off student loans.
  • 91% believe the government should support education by providing additional money to pay off student loans and subsidizing/paying for education.
  • 51% of teens are considering attending a four-year college (20% points less than in May 2020).
  • 85% said they feel pressure to pursue a four-year degree.
  • 58% say a skill-based education (e.g., trade skills, nursing, STEM, etc.) makes sense in the current economic climate.
  • 81% said learning the skills they need to be successful is an important factor in their decision about education after high school.
  • Nearly one-third would consider enrolling in career and technical education if there was a guarantee that they would develop stronger skills.
  • 43% said the cost of college ranks as most important in their decision-making for after high school, outranking job placements, completion rates and college rankings.
  • More than one-third believe a career and technical education can lead them to success.
  • Students from low-income households generally have less access to career exploration resources.
  • Earning potential is significantly more important to students from high-income households compared to those from low-income households.

"Teens continue to tell us that real-world experiences in education will lead them to career success," said Wheaton. "However, despite their perspective on the jobs they want to enter, they clearly need more information about what it takes to get there. Only by working together across policymakers, businesses, educators and learners can we illuminate all the viable pathways that lead to promising futures with upward career trajectories."

The surveys were conducted by VICE Media on behalf of ECMC Group's Question The Quo campaign, which aims to empower students to learn about the various higher education options available and to take the career path that's right for them.

For more information, visit the ECMC Group site.

About the Author

Kristal Kuykendall is editor, 1105 Media Education Group. She can be reached at kkuykendall@1105media.com.


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