The economy is continuing its slow recovery from the 2008 collapse as the average industry has increased its workforce by just over 1 percent since 2002. Though overall job growth has been sluggish, it doesn't mean job growth isn't occuring -- it's just not evenly distributed. Some job sectors, like healthcare and construction, are actually thriving.1 With this sector specific job growth, many new high school graduates are forgoing the traditional four-year college experience in hopes of jumping right into the higher growth employment markets. The Census Bureau reported that 463,000 fewer people were enrolled in college between 2012 and 2013, making it the second year enrollment has fallen by that much, bringing the two-year total to 930,000 fewer college students.1 However, attempting to pursue a career path without industry recognized skills training or certification often leads to frustration, lower wages and frequent job changes. How should high school graduates not directly entering a four year college and focused on employment in high growth sectors approach this path ahead?

Welcome to the grey collar employment sector: a set of higher growth occupations that incorporate elements of both blue-collar and white-collar jobs and require specific skill sets and training. Opportunities in the grey collar sector are plentiful and accelerating. The 2014 economy has steadily added 1.5 million jobs for six straight months, which illustrates positive economic growth and a stronger economy. Most notably, increases can be found in manufacturing (99,000 added jobs) and construction (114,000 added jobs), and the retail trades and professional and business services sector are increasing.2 However, the necessary skills and credentials to enter these fields among prospective workforces are often lacking among job seekers.

The people behind ManpowerGroup's "2013 Talent Shortage Survey United States" surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. companies and found that well over a third of employers (39 percent) said they had trouble filling certain jobs. "What that's saying is that education matters-specific skills matter," says Jennifer Hwang, a ManpowerGroup vice president, in an interview with Career colleges have a unique opportunity to provide a solution to this skills gap epidemic. Students who pursue a specialized education can gain the valuable skills they need to get hired in these in-demand industries. Here's what you need to know help guide your students toward a thriving career.

Where the Jobs Are

Regardless of where your state ranks in overall job growth potential, it's important to equip your students with a local and national outlook on job availability. Just like the saying all politics are local, this is most certainly the case for grey collar occupations. (not sure if this supports your next point or maybe they are a complement) More than 100 million people have moved within the past five years, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and 48 percent of unemployed individuals have picked up their roots in search of a job during that timeframe.4 As the economy improves, job seekers are willingly mobile for the right job opportunity.

Where can you find these jobs? Nearly 572,000 of the new jobs will be added in just two states, Texas and California, according to Moody's Analytics, a global economic forecasting company. Florida will add 176,000 jobs, while Arizona is expected to add 77,000, according to these estimates.5 Here's a breakdown of what you'll find in these top job growth states and industries.

Health Care

With a 3 percent projected job growth, Arizona's employment rate is making a strong comeback despite being among one of the hardest-hit states during the recession. The Grand Canyon State now ranks second in fastest overall job growth, and it continues to become a hub for large corporations. Known as a hotspot for retirees, the healthcare industry should see significant job growth.6 Top careers opportundities include:

    - Medical assistant: Expected national growth rate of 29 percent and an average starting salary of $29,370.

     - Medical records and health information technician: Expected national growth rate of 22 percent and an average starting salary of $34, starting salary of $29,370.7

High-Tech Jobs

In this booming information age, demand is growing across the nation for computer- and tech-savvy employees. Demand is highest in California, with San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles expecting a combined 18,400 job openings.8 Computer-skilled workers can head to the land of fun in the sun to snag a dream job in these tech-driven fields:

     - Computer Support Tech: Expected national growth rate of 17 percent and an average starting salary of $48,900.

     - Electronics Technician: Overall employment is projected to show little or no change through 2022. However, according to the BLS, job opportunities should be excellent for qualified workers with an associate's degree in electronics along with certification. Workers can expect an average starting salary of $44,150.


In the past year, Florida made its way to the top for having the largest number of jobs added in construction-related fields.9 Though jobs are plentiful, skilled workers are not, and contractors struggle to find qualified workers to fill positions. With the right skills and training, your students could be heading to the Sunshine State for a flourishing career in any of these growing fields:

     - Cement mason: Expected national growth rate of 29 percent and an average starting salary of $35,830.

     - Construction project manager: Expected national growth rate of 16 percent and an average starting salary of $82,790.

     - Carpenter: Expected national growth rate of 24 percent and an average starting salary of $39,940.

Tool-Wielding Tradesmen

Texas' recent oil and gas boom is calling for skilled tool-wielding tradesmen to join its growing labor force. In February, oil production in Texas hit a 34-year high, with combined oil and condensate volumes exceeding 2.9 million barrels of oil per day.10 This is causing a need for workers not only with the big oil companies, but also with machine shops, diesel repair shops, tire shops, truck sales and all infrastructure companies.11 Texas is seeing skilled labor demands for the following fields:

     - Technicians: Expected national growth rate of 5 percent and an average starting salary of $51,980.

     - Welders: Expected national growth rate of 6 percent and an average starting salary of $36,300.

     - Pipefitters: Expected national growth rate of 21 percent and an average starting salary of $49,140.

As a guidance counselor or school professional, you can help steer your students towards the strongest career pathways. The positive economic outlook doesn't mean positive outcomes for all. Without an education, competing for a job in these fields becomes nearly impossible. Armed with career-specific education and the latest industry statistics, your students can position themselves as ideal candidates in the growing grey-collar job sector.

What are your thoughts on getting our students prepared for these grey collar jobs? Let me know. 

Resources: Photo 1;  (1) The Fastest-Growing Jobs In The Recovery: What And Where They Are (2) Grey is the New Black Infographic  (3) Ten Professions That Need Skilled Workers Now (4) The Best Cities to Find a Job (5) Which states will generate jobs in 2014? (6) Arizona Career Guide  (7) PLEASE NOTE: ALL EXPECTED JOB GROWTH AND SALARY FIGURES  LISTED IN THE BULLETED POINTS ARE COURTESY OF THE U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS  (8) Cities with the Most Computer Science Jobs  (9) Construction jobs growing but skilled workforce nearly tapped out  (10) Oil & Gas Boom 2014: No End In Sight  (11) Oil & gas industry shows demand for skilled labor