Training News

Understanding Middle-Skill Jobs in Our Current Job Market and Economy

Middle-skill jobs are those jobs that don’t necessarily require a 4-year college degree but do require some college or post-high-school education. And over the past decade or so, middle-skill (also known as “middle-class”) jobs have been a hot topic in discussions surrounding the labor market.


ihorzigor / iStock / Getty Images Plus

As noted in a National Association of Colleges and Employers article, the current job market and economy are full of paradoxes. While the overall unemployment rate in the United States is at a 17-year record low, experts worry that economic growth will be impeded by a workforce that lacks enough skills to allow businesses to grow because of a growing skills gap and a growing neglect of middle-skill roles.

Forty-five percent of small businesses even cited that they were unable to find qualified applicants to fill middle-skill job openings in the first quarter of 2017. While the survey may be from last year, this information is still relevant today.

As a human resources (HR) or learning and development (L&D) professional, do you know how middle-skill jobs in the current job market and economy might affect you and your organization? Keep reading to learn more.

The ‘Skills Gap’ Debate

The continuous “skills gap” debate questions whether there is a mismatch between current employer labor requirements and the skills that most employees in the job market currently have and whether this leads to bad outcomes such as high unemployment rates and slow economic growth. And there is currently a lot of debate surrounding the “skills gap” in middle-skill employment in particular.

Some experts claim that there is no real growing demand for middle-skill employees, that employers are simply taking their time to hire new employees, and that emerging occupations can lead to mismatched hires and low employment in certain occupations sometimes.

Yet, other experts claim that middle-skill employees aren’t being properly trained and prepared for their roles before they join the workforce. And as many as 95% of businesses surveyed have reported difficulty with finding workers with the skills they need. 

Stats and Information to Know

  • Between 2014 and 2024, 48% of job openings will be for middle-skill jobs.
  • Middle-skill jobs account for 53% of United States’ labor market, but only 43% of the country’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level.
  • 69% of HR executives say their inability to attract and retain middle-skills talent frequently affects their organizations’ performance.

What You Should Do as an L&D or HR Professional

Regardless of whether you think the “skills gap” is real or even important right now, there are some things you’ll want to do in the current job market and economy to ensure your staff is always prepared, highly-skilled, and that your organization remains competitive.

  • Partner with postsecondary institutions for continuous education opportunities for your employees.
  • Continuously upskill your employees and offer competitive educational benefits in your benefits packages.
  • Rigorously evaluate your new hires’ and existing employees’ aptitude to learn new skills.

As you consider middle-skill jobs and requirements in the current job market and economy, be sure to keep the above information in mind.