A growing body of research supports the idea that providing enhanced opportunities for non-college-bound learners is critically important for both students and employers in the Garden State.

In July, Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a study on jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree, which showed that the U.S. has about 30 million good jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. These jobs have a median pay of $55,000.

In New Jersey specifically, there is ample demand for middle-skilled workers, according to a July 2017 report by McKinsey & Co., which found that there are more middle-skills jobs in New Jersey than qualified middle-skill applicants (those with less than a four-year college degree). The report noted that “New Jersey could increase the supply of ‘job-ready’ middle-skill workers by expanding access to vocational training….”

Students who aren’t headed to four-year colleges after high school graduation will be the focus of a new task force being formed by the New Jersey School Boards Association.

The NJSBA Task Force on Educational Opportunities for Non-College-Bound Students will study current best practices in vocational and technical education; what schools should do to increase educational opportunities for these students; and how improvements in vocational, career and technical education will be funded.

“I’m very excited about this new task force because it will be tackling a critically important aspect of how we educate high school students that is in dire need of attention,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, NJSBA executive director. “Due to district budgetary constraints, this is an area that has unfortunately not received the attention it deserves. Indeed, more and more students are exploring opportunities to become trained in career paths that do not necessarily require four-year college degrees.”

“Not every student is meant for college,” said Dan Sinclair, NJSBA president. “It is my hope that, with input from board members, career and technical education experts and school staff and administrators, we can develop recommendations on how to better serve this portion of the student population. “

The task force is expected to issue its report and recommendations by June 2018.