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New Jobs for Middle-Skill Workers

December 3, 2011
Plain English Version

Skilled entrepreneurs in cities create jobs for workers with middle-level skills. These jobs pay higher wages and offer opportunities for growth.

For example, the city of Austin added 50,000 “middle-skill” positions in the past decade. These jobs require a two-year associate’s degree or the equivalent work experience. They pay a median wage of $17.30 an hour, or $38,000 a year.

American jobs are shifting from manufacturing to the service sector. Cities like Austin attract well-educated workers and young companies. It shows that a well-educated work force can aid lesser-educated workers. Raleigh, N.C., has benefited from the same dynamic.

The new companies are following the practices of traditional manufacturers. They shift high-value intellectual tasks into smaller, cheaper actions. The way assembly lines operate. Employers are breaking down higher-skill jobs to “create new middle-skill, middle-income specialties,” according to a recent report.

An example is the Homeaway Company. It is a vacation-rental service. The company is growing rapidly. Customer-service representatives earn from $25,000 to the low-$30,000s range and field phone calls and e-mails from people using the company’s website. About one-third of them are promoted annually to areas such as a team that monitors the site for fraudulent listings and removes shoddy properties. “In a few years, you can go from the high 20s to the 50s,” the president of the company said.

Simply put, rapid growth boosts the value even of workers who have a limited education but possess knowledge of a company’s systems. An expert said, “many ‘middle-skill’ workers begin to get skills that are much more valuable than their overall education might suggest.”

Cities that attract educated, entrepreneurs see faster wage growth for less-educated workers.

The Wall Street Journal


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