Overall, experts predict that the total US job market will grow by 11% between 2012 and 2022. In comparison, experts project that the energy job market alone will grow by over 16%. However, a lack of awareness of these energy and advanced manufacturing career opportunities could continue to result in a shortage of workers for these positions. These positions, on average, pay 2-3 times more than the average of all private sector jobs; so, in the interest of higher household incomes and better quality of life, there should be a concerted effort to encourage the future workforce to gain the knowledge and skills needed to support this growth and, more importantly, increase their earning potential.

In a recent opinion article in the Wall Street Journal, former energy research analyst Paul Tice attributes the lack of awareness of high-paying jobs in academic institutions to a cultural shift away from certain careers with negative stereotypes. For example, petroleum engineers are the highest-paid college graduates, but most many U.S. universities are pushing students into other areas that have a much lower demand and lower pay for workers. (Read more on Paul’s perspective here.)

Mississippi faces a similar societal struggle with career awareness. Many employers are actively searching for engineers and other highly skilled workers, but most students are either encouraged away from or just not told about real opportunities in “bottom tier” skilled trades–even though these positions typically pay much higher salaries than their private sector counterparts and boast double-digit growth rates.

There is an argument to be made, then, that the first step to meeting our workforce demands is to redirect the conversation. Whether new graduates or adults looking to improve their positions, the next generation of workers needs to hear from an advocate for energy and advanced manufacturing careers in order to supply market needs, raise their own standard living, and increase overall state GDP.

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Sources Cited
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Industry-occupation Matrix Data, by Occupation,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_108.htm (visited April 10, 2014).

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Petroleum Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm (visited April 09, 2014).

Tice, Paul H. “How Climate Change Conquered the American Campus.” Wall Street Journal. N.p., 7 Apr. 2014. Web. 9 Apr. 2014.