In evolving economy, degrees will mean more than ever before, Chamber official says

TRENTON – The knowledge economy is morphing into the college economy.

A business group official told the Joint Committee on the Public Schools this afternoon that the United States will need 22 million graduates with bachelor’s degrees – predominantly in science, math, and health fields –  to keep pace with the new middle-skill-level jobs that will be created by 2018.

Dana Egreczky, senior vice president of Workforce Development for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, said many of the historically low-level jobs have fallen victim to cuts or technology. Toll booth operators have given way to EZ Pass. Phone operators have been replaced with voice recognition, and bank tellers have been replaced by  ATMs. And grocery store cashiers are less needed with the advent of self-service bar code scanners.

“Diplomas are no longer a ticket to the middle class,” she said.

She said part of the problem is that students in this country are not prepared, it’s not that they are incapable of learning. The motivation is just not strong enough.

“We have to push our kids much harder than we’re pushing them,” she said. “Other countries demand more from their students at the K-12 level.”

When Sen. Diane Allen, (R-7), of Edgewater Park, asked what country serves as a good model in terms of student achievement, Egreczky said, “One of the Asian countries.”

In 1973, there were 25 million jobs with college degrees. In 2007, there were 91 million jobs for people with at least some college education.

Egreczky said the Great Recession removed the lowest-skilled jobs.

“Economic pressure on employers has forced them to automate or offshore low-skill jobs,” she said.

The trend for such jobs will only get worse as an additional 640,000 jobs of low skill will be cut by 2018.

In evolving economy, degrees will mean more than ever before, Chamber official says