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Enlighten Me: Middle skill jobs in the First State

Job creation in the First State often focuses on bringing in - or retaining - well-paying positions that require a college education.

But there are other in demand jobs that lack the workforce needed to fill them.  They’re middle skill jobs – positions that need more that a high school degree, but not a four-year college degree.

The National Skills Coalition says 51 percent of jobs in Delaware are middle skill, but only 43 percent of workers in the state are trained to that level.

It adds that between 2014 and 2024 - 46 percent of job openings in Delaware will be for middle skill positions.

Wilmington’s Dawn Career Institute trains people for these middle-skill jobs.  It’s president Michael Glanz says those openings are an opportunity for those who have lost a job and are looking to pivot to a new career – but can’t afford to get a four-year degree to do so.

“Taking yourself out of the workforce for four years, that opportunity cost is tremendous," said Glanz. "Quite frankly, I don’t think most people training for a second career can afford [it].  Not just in dollars and cents, [but] four years of time to do it..”

Glanz notes many of these middle skill jobs can become middle class careers.

“There’s a significant linkage, I would say, between middle skill jobs and the middle class, as broad a term as that is," said Glanz.  "If you have a dual income situation where both people are working in a middle skills job, you’re looking right at a middle class family.”

Glanz adds the emphasis on getting a college degree has created a need for middle skill workers to fill jobs.

"The emphasis is such that people feel compelled to go to a four year college or university and it has really drawn the attention away from those middle-skill jobs," said Glanz.  "People aren't aware [of these jobs].  It's an awareness issue."

Glanz says the biggest areas of need for a workforce are in the health care field at large and small employers.  The jobs there range from certified nursing assistants to massage therapists.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for nearly three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.