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Closing the Skills Gap Quickly for Great Careers

Selecting a 2-Year Program that Prepares Students for Careers Quickly

Statistics can be tricky. At first glance, it would appear that the job market for technical trades is dismal. Take for example the production field. Often victims of automation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates over 282,000 jobs will be eliminated in the production field over the next few years. Yet, even with this staggering statistic there will still be over 9 million jobs in the production field.

Put simply: lack of industry job growth does not mean lack of available jobs. Jobs created as well as current job openings are two (of many) factors to consider. Aging workforces are also a contributing factor that influences job availability. For example, approximately 1/3 of aviation technicians in the private sector are over 50 years old and nearing retirement age.  As aging populations of technical trade professionals retire, who will take their place?

In addition to aging and retiring workforces, there is increasingly less of a labor pool to fill these openings. According to the BLS, less than 50% of Americans trained for “middle-skills jobs.” The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that in the next 10 years, 2 million of the 3.2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled.

Filling the Talent Pipeline

Luckily there are readily available solutions that benefit students, employees, and employers.

Collectively, employers and their education partners have been refocusing their emphasis from strictly 4-year bachelor’s degree options to include skills training at community colleges, competency-based programs, and apprenticeship programs. Lockheed Martin is an excellent example of this shifting focus, developing an apprenticeship program in aerospace technology with Eastern Florida State College at the Kennedy Space Center. Lockheed Martin is also partnering with Tarrant County College in Texas to train workers in aerospace manufacturing for the F-35 military aircraft.

At institutes of higher education, schools are reformulating their measures of success. For decades there was the insistence that a 4-year degree is the ultimate end goal, the best viable career preparation. However, the pendulum is shifting to better appreciate just how valuable and essential 2-year programs are. With an emphasis on technical trades and middle-skill level jobs, closing the skills gap with a solid education in a 2-year program is finally recognized as an essential part of the educational pathway.

4 Great Careers and Short-Term Programs that Close the Skills Gap

These careers and corresponding programs at these schools will help you close the skills gap.


An associate’s degree in nursing will have an immediate return on investment. With an average early-career median salary of over $52,000 nursing is the third highest paying associates degree. In addition, nursing pay averages higher that 75% of four year degree majors!

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of over 175,000 openings for registered nurses are projected each year over the next decade!

Ready to start your degree in Nursing? Check out these great programs at our partner schools:

Aviation Maintenance

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aviation Maintenance Technician jobs are projected to grow 11 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, approximately 1/3 of aviation technicians in the private sector are over 50 years old leading to more job openings as workers near retirement age. With a median annual wage of approximately $67,000 this is a great career to enter into. An Associate Degree in Aviation Maintenance prepares students for career opportunities with airlines, aircraft manufacturers, repair stations, depot overhaul facilities, private jet, charter services, corporate flight departments, and government agencies.

Ready to start your degree in Aviation Maintenance? Check out these great programs at our partner schools:

Automotive Services (Technicians and Mechanics)

According to the BLS, Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics jobs are expected to grow by approximately 70,000 jobs a year over the next 10 years. Even with this growth there has been and will continue to be a shortage of Auto Service Techs and Mechanics due in part to the aging workforce of the Baby Boomer population.

The BLS lists a median average salary of $48,000 with the top 10% earning almost $80,000. This is a great career that offers a variety of opportunities from employment at dealerships, repair shops, auto stores, and self-employment. Additionally, there are opportunities for fixed operations and executive positions such as Shop Foreman, Service Manager, Fixed Operations Director, and General Management.

Ready to start your degree in Automotive Services? Check out these great programs at our partner schools:

    • Contra Costa College: Offers several certificates and degrees in Automotive Services including an Associate of Science Automotive Service Technician and an Associate of Science Automotive Collision Repair Technology. Contra Costa College has GI Bill approved programs and offers credit for military experience. Contra Cost College awards credit for the CLEP exam and is approved for Tuition Assistance.


The BLS estimates there will be approximately 50,000 jobs added each year for the next decade. This is another industry that is expected to be hit hard by a higher number of retiring workers exiting than there are qualified workers entering the profession.

Although the median annual salary is quoted as $45,000 by the BLS, the range of pay and opportunities is vastly varied. Traveling industrial pipe welders earn anywhere from $50,000 up to $185,000 yearly. Underwater welders can earn from $100,000 to over $200,000 a year. Military support welders can earn from $160,000 to more than $200,000 a year in combat zones.

Ready to start your degree in Welding? Check out these great programs at our partner schools:

    • College of Siskiyous: Offers an Associate of Science Degree in Welding as well as a couple of Certificates in Welding. The College of Siskiyous has GI Bill approved programs, offers credit for military experience, and awards credit for the CLEP exam.
    • College of the Redwoods: Offers a comprehensive Welding Technology that program provides training in commercial welding, industrial welding, and fabrication to prepare students for a career in a multitude of fields. This offers flexibility to switch industries without changing careers. College of the Redwoods has GI Bill approved programs and offers credit for military experience.





About the author

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Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.