For high school graduates, summer is the staging territory to prepare for training programs and college. But just what happens to the thousands of Alaska high school students after they leave school?
That’s an economic issue for the state, given that much of Alaska’s workforce will come from that pool of potential workers. In a research partnership with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development began tracking high school students, starting with the class of 2005, to see where they attended college, whether they remained there and where they show up in the working world.
The results, published in a new Department of Labor Trends report by economist Yuancie Lee, offer up surprising insights.
Of the 64,000 students currently being tracked, 49,000 graduated from high school. That means 16 percent did not earn an Alaska diploma. Six percent earned GEDs.
A sizable majority, 77 percent, graduated from high school. Of those, 63 percent attended college. The other 37 percent haven’t enrolled in college, but that doesn’t mean they won’t, the report finds. That’s because, the study found, not all high school graduates enroll in college at their first opportunity. Of the seven classes the state is tracking, the most recent graduates in particular may not have enrolled in a college or university, though many will eventually.
“In other words, that 63 percent will likely increase in the coming years,” the report says.
Where do the college students go? Slightly more than 60 percent enroll in Alaska universities. Those who left Alaska chose states nearby in the Northwest. A combined 10 percent attended schools in Washington or Oregon, while six percent chose California or Hawaii.
When the students tracked went into employment, where did they find the jobs? The class of 2005 graduates in the study were graduating from college in 2009, providing for 1,685 new college graduates for the study.
If the careers matched with the market employers, they would be hired at schools or in medical facilities. A top job market in Alaska is in serving the 132,000 school kids as teachers or administrators. The other is in the health professions. But many of these degree-earners so far haven’t seemed to enter their chosen field yet.
Yuanci Lee, the author of the study, found the majority are employed in offices, in food and beverage serving jobs, records clerks, retail sales and as financial clerks. Only 33 are employed in health technologies and only 28 are teachers.
Since they are just exiting college, Lee said he doesn’t expect them yet to have fully moved into their profession. The college graduates are likely paying their dues, making the right contacts, waiting for openings.
This sounds fairly typical of what we see in the job market. College graduates come home and seldom get placed in their chosen profession immediately. Especially in today’s harsh employment picture nation wide.
But what is exciting about the study, is its long-term ability to provide snap-shots of the realities for the up and coming generation.
This is an Alaska first.
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