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Memo to Students: We Have Jobs—Do You Want Them?

We've written, as have others, about high school graduates who lack the academic skills necessary to make it in college and the workforce, and efforts to rectify that problem. But a new report examines a different, and perhaps equally vexing issue: What if students simply aren't interested in going into the fields where the jobs are?

A new report by the ACT looks at that mismatch and unearths some interesting results. The report lists the five highest-growth occupations, based on U.S. Department of Labor projections, requiring at least a two-year college degree. In this order, they are: education, including secondary school teachers and administrators; computer/information specialists, who would include computer programmers, database administrators; community service professionals, such as social workers and school counselors; management, such as hotel and restaurant managers; and marketing and sales employees. In all five fields, the percentage of high school graduates who said they were interested in those careers—ACT takers were the ones surveyed—falls short of projections. See the accompanying chart from the ACT, below.

Some academic researchers have questioned state and local efforts to raise academic requirements in subjects such as math and science, saying the new, tougher mandates aren't always aligned with what the job market is actually demanding. The ACT report, on the one hand, notes that too many high school graduates aren't meeting academic standards for college readiness. Yet it also seems to beg the question: Even if students have the academic talent and academic preparation needed to make it in the job market, are they going to end up in the jobs where they're needed the most?

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