Choosing life-sustaining careers


A new Yahoo Finance article announces that the U.S. construction industry is short more than 350,000 workers. A study by the international business consulting firm Deloitte shows that manufacturers will have about 2.5 million unfilled openings by 2028. Other industries report similar bad news, and a primary cause is the skills gap. That is, potential employees don’t have the skills that employers need.

Some call it the skills mismatch — the idea that some may have skills or education, just not the appropriate ones.

One way or another, those potential professionals have chosen a different path. They may have missed opportunities to gain those skills — or never had the opportunity to train in the first place. They may have prepared for careers for which the demand is low, or they may have chosen education that didn’t lead to in-demand skills.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that choices and opportunities are at the heart of closing the skills gap and providing meaningful careers for all.

Ohio is addressing the issue through education, requiring that public schools provide career exploration experiences for younger students to learn about possible paths for the future.

Businesses are involved, as well. The “I Build America” effort is one example of a program organized by construction industry organizations to teach about skilled trade professions.

Great Oaks, too, is dedicated to helping students and parents understand the choices and opportunities available in their future. Our Career Exploration Specialist works with teachers in our 36 affiliate school districts to expose younger students to a variety of careers.

We know, too, that parents often have questions about college and careers, and preparing for both. We work to provide answers in several ways. First, frequent community meetings — coffee chats — give us the chance to share information with parents of middle school students about the options and opportunities available to them. A number of those chats are already scheduled for this year; more will follow in the spring. Second, free online resources and links are collected on the Great Oaks website at

There’s a lot at stake. For instance, the labor shortage in construction means fewer homes are built, and that contributes to rising home costs for all of us. In Ohio, 70 percent of college graduates leave school with an average of $30,000 in debt, an eye-opening burden for those just starting out in a career.

Closing that gap — and more importantly, helping young men and women choose meaningful, successful, life-sustaining careers, is our passion and the mission of career-technical education.

Harry Snyder is the president/CEO of Great Oaks Career Campuses.

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