Colorado’s workforce should grow twice as fast as the rest of the country through 2024, with many of those new jobs coming in higher-paying, knowledge-based occupations, according to a labor market study from the Colorado Office of Economic Development.
But the study — conducted by Mercer — found some big mismatches when it comes to the kind of college degrees students in the state are obtaining, and the jobs available.
“We are doing pretty good on the employer side. We will have to focus more on the talent side,” said Fiona Arnold, executive director of the state’s economic development office.
For example, Colorado graduates enough advertising, marketing and public relations majors each year to replace everyone employed in those fields in the state — and then some.
And despite a common perception that science workers are in short supply, the state graduates 15 times as many students with a degree in physical science given the number of open positions, and more than 13 times in the life sciences, the study found.
Would those frustrated marketing majors fare better studying logistics — where the study found a shortage of 4,417 graduates versus openings — or obtaining a teaching certificate, where the gap was 1,480?
Another area where the state needs to do a better job is in training workers for positions that require more than a high school education, but less than a four-year college, Arnold said.
Take the 28,837 graduates with management degrees, a case of overkill given the 5,756 openings. By contrast, there were 15,359 openings for office and administrative support positions versus 2,020 people who completed degrees in that field, where four years of college often isn’t necessary.
Colorado has more balance when it comes to the supply of engineering, business and health care graduates, with slight deficits in the computer sciences, law and education.
Colorado’s higher concentration of higher-paying occupations, like engineering, has pushed the state’s median wage 7 percent above the U.S. median, while the cost of living in the state remains 2 percent below the U.S. average, the study found.
Colorado also ranks as the third most popular state in the country in terms of net migration, and is especially popular with young adults launching their careers. That has helped fill in the occupational gaps.
Arnold notes that employers relocating to the state repeatedly cite the talent base as the prime draw. In a shift from the past, employers are going to where the workers want to live, rather than asking them to relocate.
The study indicates that while Colorado is in a better spot than its rivals, economic development efforts need to focus more on making sure the state’s workforce remains a draw for employers, she said.