An Interview with Pam Villarreal: Other Options than College

Feb 26, 2013 by

Job_PostingMichael F. Shaughnessy –

  1. Pam, what is your exact title and what would you say you do at your present place of employment?

I am a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a non-profit research organization. I research and write about topics pertaining to tax policy, economic growth and retirement issues.

  1. Now, over the past four-five years, we have heard a lot about the push to get everyone into college. Do you recall when this started and who started it?

I do not have a clear history on when college really took off, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, college enrollment increased modestly between 1990 and 2000 by 11%, but really took off between 2000 and 2010, increasing 37%. Many factors have attributed to the college push, including the changing demographic of the workforce (more women are in the workforce and indeed, more women are now enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs than are men). Also, the advent of computer and information technology increased the need for high-tech degrees. This primarily began in the 1980s.

Also, the availability of financial aid increased significantly beginning in the mid-1970s.

  1. Not everyone wants to sit in a classroom and take notes, and not everyone wants to sit in front of a computer screen with WEB CT or Blackboard. Are there jobs out there for those who like to use their hands?

Absolutely. Despite the fact that many hands-on manufacturing jobs have gone overseas, there is an increasing demand for jobs that cannot be outsourced…plumbers, brick and stone masons, electricians and HVAC technicians. Also, there is an often ignored demand for workers in the health care field that are not necessarily doctors and nurses. With an aging population, we will need people to be able to operate and read sonogram equipment, x-rays, repair medical equipment, and so forth. These jobs require some technical training but they normally pay above the median wage.

  1. It seems to me that we are always going to need carpenters, plumbers, electricians and the like. Or am I off on this?

Not at all, as I discussed in the previous answer. The problem is that with the emphasis on computer-related, white collar and high-tech jobs, there continues to be a stigma associated with blue-collar jobs. Somehow these jobs are viewed as low-paying or relegated to a segment of the uneducated male population. But master plumbers and electricians, for instance, often have years of training, starting out in apprenticeships. Many self-employed are earning more than the typical college graduate.

  1. Also, I always hear about medical technicians- X-Ray, Sonogram, and pharmacy tech- How does their future look?

The outlook is great. In fact, over the next 10 years, these jobs are projected to grow much faster than the average industry job growth of about 14 percent. Medical sonographers are expected to grow 44 percent by 2020.

  1. What seems to be the fastest growing area in terms of employment without those general education electives?

For somebody coming out of high school and going right to on-the-job training, electrician and plumber’s helpers, and cargo and freight agents are some of the fastest growing areas. These jobs are growing at twice the average for all industries.

  1. Are there areas that those entering the job market need to avoid?

There are some areas where there is an overabundance of degrees and a potentially difficult time finding a job. For instance over a quarter million education degrees are awarded each year, but from 2010 to 2020 only about half a million teaching jobs will become available. I won’t say that there are specific areas to avoid, but students considering a career path should check the online classifieds and see where jobs are plentiful. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides an online Occupational Outlook handbook.

  1. What about the food and beverage industry? How does the job market look there and do you need 4 years of college for that?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the food and beverage industry is not an area for significant growth. For non-management food service staff, growth over 10 years will about 11 percent, slower than the average for all industries. For management staff, growth is actually expected to decline 3 percent. Many foodservice managers receive on the job training as they become promoted. However, hotel food and beverage managers in the hotel and resort industry often require a bachelor’s degree in hotel/motel management of an equivalent.

  1. What have I neglected to ask?

I cannot think of anything.

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