Think blue collar jobs are dead and gone?

Then you will be shocked to learn that middle skill workers, the new economy version of “blue collar” workers, are predicted to account for 40 percent of all job growth by 2017.

According to a recent USA Today analysis of local data, almost 2.5 million new, middle-skill jobs are expected to be added to the workforce by 2017. These well-paying jobs are available now, right here in our own community.

So, why didn’t you already know this?

Over the past several generations enthusiasm for blue collar jobs – long the bread and butter of the Southside economy – has taken a nosedive as parents, educators and legislators advocated a “college-for-all” philosophy.

Data correlating higher wages for college versus high school graduates supported this approach. Over time, however, the landscape has changed. While more high school graduates than ever are pursuing four-year degrees, the escalating cost of education combined with a shrinking job market and the oversupply of some college degrees have produced a mismatch between education and the workforce.

What our economy needs today are not more four-year degrees, but more middle skill workers. Middle-skill jobs require some postsecondary training but not a bachelor’s degree. And although they don’t require four years of education, they do require a discernible skill. Skills training to qualify for these jobs is offered by SVHEC and our educational partners DCC and SVCC throughout the region.

Demand for middle skill workers will only continue to increase as baby boomers retire. Businesses in our area are already grappling with the challenge of middle skill retirement turnover.

As the Southside economy slowly improves, it will be critical to provide employers with the skilled workforce necessary to support and sustain growth.

Take a look at some of the skilled workers being produced by SVHEC and our partners. They are securing good, well-paying jobs right here in Southern Virginia.

This shade of blue looks pretty good to us.