A state study to be unveiled this fall will help steer high school students into the jobs that will be available in the next century.
In five years, members of the Class of 2000 will get their high school diploma and enter the new century as adults.
Most will continue their education if they want to make a decent living, says Joel Frederick, a guidance counselor at Lawrence High School.
"If it's not college or even junior college, it's going to be some sort of training," Frederick said. "It's more and more difficult to walk out with a high school diploma or a GED and find a job that allows you to live very comfortably."
Frederick and other guidance counselors around the state have an idea that service jobs are going to grow. But beyond that, they haven't been able to tell students what specific careers will be available.
Their aim has been to steer students in a career direction based partly on aptitude and partly on their personalities, Frederick said. About two-thirds of the students go to college. The rest decide to find a job right out of high school or get vocational-technical training.
"Education is no guarantee of employment, although it does improve your chances," he said.
But thanks to new state studies to be released in November, Frederick and other counselors will be better able steer high school students into career paths.
The Kansas Department of Human Resources is now putting together two labor force studies, costing $300,000, which involve developing occupational projections and wage surveys.
The occupational projections will tell which jobs will be available by the year 2005 in Kansas by region. And the wage survey will provide new information on wages from about 13,000 state employers.
"The two publications together provide absolutely invaluable information for high school students and counselors," said Charles Warren, president of Kansas Inc., the state's economic development think tank.
"It will tell them over the next several years which occupations are growing in Kansas, where they are and how much they pay," Warren said.
Then, using that information, a student can decide what classes in high school, community college, four-year college or vocational-technical school to take, Warren said.
"He'll know what he needs," Warren said. "We don't have that information now. This is a very important kind of labor market information."
Fields of growth
Bill Layes, chief of labor market information services for the Department of Human Relations, said that, so far, the studies indicate the most rapidly growing industries in the next 10 years will be services and trade.
Services include nursing and personal care, education, advertising, commercial art, cleaning and maintenance.
Layes said other trends indicate there will be more occupations that require technical computer skills and mathematical ability.
Warren said that current information shows demand is high for machinists, technicians skilled at using computer-aided design programs and health care technicians. Those jobs command annual wages in the $20,000 to $30,000 range.
"There seems to be a greater demand in Kansas for the professional technical fields than there is for the general college graduate," Warren said.
"I would suspect that a lot of the college graduate types are having to look out of state for career opportunities," he said.
He said there have been some reports from community colleges that some people who have general college degrees are enrolling to get specific training in certain fields.
"This kind of career-related education is becoming more and more demanded by employers," he said. "What we're finding is the person who just graduates from high school and gets his four-year college degree will earn far less than a person who graduates from a community college and gets training in a skill area."