The Center’s Great Jobs project aims, above all, to get the message to young people and parents that many terrific careers don’t require a costly four-year college degree. In recent weeks, 28 suburban and exurban newspapers have run an op-ed by Katherine Kersten that makes that point concisely.

Katherine points out that many families would likely approach their teenagers’ post-secondary planning differently if they knew two key facts:

Here’s the first: about 49 percent of young Minnesotans enter a four-year college after high school, but only 22 percent of jobsin our state require a bachelor’s degree or more.

In other words, there is a striking disconnect between the educational requirements of the jobs in demand and the educational pursuits of our state’s young people. Consider this: a quarter of all bartenders in Minnesota have a four-year college degree. More than 100,000 college-educated Minnesotans are working as retail salespeople, waiting tables, and working as maids and janitors—all jobs that require a high school degree or less—according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here’s the second fact families should know:

Career-preparation pathways like two-year associate’s degrees, apprenticeships, and certificates can enable young people to get a fulfilling, well-paying job fast, avoid crippling debt, and be assured of a strong future in an in-demand industry—with the opportunity to build on that education going forward, sometimes at their employer’s expense.

In some cases, young people who choose these routes—becoming, say, plumbers, electrical power line installers, power plant operators, nurses, medical sonographers, or dental hygienists—can earn significantly more than they would with certain college degrees.

Katherine’s op-ed links to some terrific career-planning resources—the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s on-line “Graduate Employment Outcomes” tool and the agency’s fact-filled paper entitled “What To Know Before You Owe.”

The op-ed appeared in papers ranging from the Crow River News and Dakota County Tribune to the Sun Current Edina and the Princeton Union-Times. You can read it here.

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