Advanced manufacturing
Workers in advanced manufacturing using a computer-controlled machine tool. Photo courtesy San Diego Workforce Partnership

If a new career is part of your 2019 new year’s resolution, you’re not alone—51 percent of all American employees are looking for another job, according to a recent survey. However, gaining the skills needed for a better position often requires additional education, which can be daunting if you’re tight on time, money or both.

So here’s a bit of good news for you: many of the fastest-growing, best-paying jobs in the greater San Diego area are “middle-skill,” which mean they require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Even better news: San Diego and Imperial counties’ community colleges offer affordable, attainable routes to these jobs through a wide variety of career education courses.

Many of San Diego’s booming industries, including healthcare and information & communication technology, are struggling to find people to fill crucial middle-skill positions. In 2017, 38 percent of job openings in San Diego County and 36 percent in Imperial County were for middle-skill positions, and these percentages are projected to grow by 2022, according to the San Diego-Imperial Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research.

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Between now and 2022, there will be more than 47,000 job openings annually in the area’s 100 top middle-skill job categories—the vast majority of which are facing a shortage of qualified workers. And these middle-skill positions pay well, too, according to a recent study:

  • In San Diego County, workers in the top 100 middle-skill jobs earn a median hourly wage of $26.70 (or $55,500 annually) compared to a median hourly wage of $19.30 (or $40,000 annually) for all jobs in the region;
  • In Imperial County, workers in the top 100 middle-skill jobs earn a median hourly wage of $23.96 per hour (or $49,800 annually) compared to a median hourly wage of $14.42 (or $30,000 annually) for all jobs in the region.

Some of these in-demand middle-skill paths include roles such as medical lab technician, computer network architect and electrical technician. Community college career education courses offer an efficient, effective path to these jobs. Career education focuses on teaching students skills for specific job fields through hands-on training.

These programs almost always take less time than a bachelor’s degree, and they lead to real employment results. According to LaunchBoard, a statewide data system for all California Community Colleges, 71 percent of students who complete a career education program in San Diego and Imperial Counties are employed one year after finishing.

Here’s what sets community college career education in the San Diego area apart:

  • Variety: Students can choose from more than 200 programs at ten campuses
  • Practicality: Students are taught in hands-on workshops by faculty who currently work in their field of expertise
  • Efficiency: Students receive the technical knowledge employers need and a professional certificate or associate degree, in a relatively short period of time (eight weeks to two years)
  • Affordability: A year of tuition for San Diego-area career education students averages $1,104 per year, compared to $5,472 at a California State University, $12,192 at a University of California school and $34,740 at a private institution

This all might sound great, but it can be hard to know where to get started. To that end, there’s a one-stop shop to help you take that first step: Browse in-demand careers in the San Diego region, compare salaries, and then find the program and campus for you.

San Diego isn’t the only part of California focused on pointing students toward the opportunities middle-skill jobs hold, either. February is Career Education Month statewide, so we’re teaming up with our counterparts across California to encourage students to “Learn More. Earn More.”

We’re a month into 2019, but now is the perfect time to start thinking about how your community college can help you take your next professional step. It’s a hands-on education that will hands-down be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Danene Brown is chair of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Workforce Development Council.