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Survey of High School Seniors Reveals Their Plans for the Future That May Help Bridge the Skills Gap

New Research from CareerBuilder and EMSI Explores Growing Imbalance Between Job Openings, Actual Hires and College Degrees Needed

CHICAGO, Sept. 5, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- It's no secret that several occupations in the U.S. have a large number of workers on the brink of retirement and a growing deficit of skilled talent in the coffers. But new research from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) shows high school seniors may be taking a more active role in providing a solution to the skills gap. Nearly three in four high school seniors know what career they want to pursue, and STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) top their choices.

The research combines labor market data pulled from EMSI's extensive database1 with nationwide surveys of more than 2,100 employers across industries and more than 200 high school seniors conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6, 2014.

Extended Vacancies
According to the survey, 37 percent of hiring managers reported that they currently have positions that, on average, stay open for 12 weeks or longer, up from 35 percent last year. Comparing industries, Information Technology (52 percent), Health Care2 (49 percent) and Manufacturing (44 percent) all came in significantly higher than the national average.

Among employers who have positions that stay open for 12 weeks or longer, 60 percent said they will raise starting salaries over the next 12 months, compared to 43 percent for all employers.

Job Postings Vs. Hires
To further explore how much companies are struggling to fill more specialized roles, CareerBuilder and EMSI compiled a list of some of the hardest-to-fill occupations that tend to be vacant for 12 weeks or longer based on the survey conducted by Harris Poll. CareerBuilder and EMSI then pulled labor market data to see how the aggregated average monthly job postings3 for these occupations compare to the number of people who were actually hired over the last year (July 2013 to July 2014). For Software Developers, Nurses, Sales Representatives and Network Administrators and IT Managers, the number of people hired for these occupations significantly lags the number of job ads companies are posting – evidence that the skilled labor supply is not keeping up with the demand. 


Jobs Posted Per Month

Workers Hired Per Month

Software Developers



Registered Nurses



Sales Representatives (wholesale, manufacturing, technical and scientific)



Network Administrators and Computer/IT Managers




Aging Workforce and Education Gap
To get a sense of how quickly talent pools will be replenished for in-demand occupations, CareerBuilder and EMSI also looked at post-recession job growth for some of the hardest-to-fill positions along with the pace of college degree completions for those professions and the percentage of the workforce that is nearing retirement. 

For example, employment in industries such as Manufacturing had been on a downward trajectory for a number of years due to automation and sending jobs overseas. Now, more Manufacturing jobs are coming back to the U.S., but the talent pool has shrunk over time due to workers moving into other fields and students avoiding related majors because jobs were being offshored. From 2010 to 2014, there were an estimated 23,861 annual job openings for Machinists, but the number of college degrees awarded for this field was only 6,184 in 2013. Moreover, 25 percent of Machinists are ages 55 and older and approaching retirement, hastening the need to find replacement workers.   


Total employment in 2014

Growth in jobs 2010-2014

Annual job openings 2010-2014

Degree completions 2013

Percentage of the workforce ages 55+

Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks


111,346, up 7%






59,269, up 17%




Industrial Machinery Mechanics


43,362, up 15%




Petroleum Engineers


9,964, up 30%





"There is a growing imbalance between the number of jobs being advertised and the number of jobs being filled - and the college degrees needed to keep up with employment demands," said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. "Education is one of the building blocks of our economy and one of the most important defenses we have against the skills shortage in the U.S. More companies are promoting STEM-related careers in high schools and grammar schools, and it's encouraging to see students get excited about pursuing these fields."

High School Seniors' Plans for the Future  
Fortunately, the Harris Poll survey shows the majority (97 percent) of high school seniors plan to go to college to obtain a two-year or four-year degree or other training that may ultimately help to close the talent gap. The most popular majors these students plan to sign up for are largely STEM-related:

  1. Engineering
  2. Business
  3. Psychology
  4. Biological and Biomedical Sciences
  5. Physical Sciences
  6. Arts, Visual and Performing
  7. Computer and Information Sciences
  8. Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences
  9. English Language and Literature
  10. Math and Statistics

Seventy-three percent of high school seniors reported that they already know which career they want to pursue. The most popular choices for profession among these students include:

  • Teacher
  • Engineer
  • Psychologist/Psychiatrist
  • Scientist – Biological/Physical/Social
  • Artist/Designer
  • Veterinarian
  • Machine Operator
  • Computer Programmer
  • Physician
  • Government Professional
  • Nurse

While 21 percent of high school seniors said their career decision was influenced by something they saw on TV or in a movie, 47 percent relied on research they conducted online, 32 percent pointed to advice from parents and/or family members and 25 percent said one of their teachers advised them.

1 The study uses EMSI's extensive labor market database, which pulls from over 90 national and state employment resources and includes detailed information on employees and self-employed workers.

2 Health Care employers with 50 or more employees

3 The job posting data does not take into account if a company posts one ad, but may have several openings for that occupation, so the imbalance of postings vs. hires could be even more pronounced.

Survey Methodology
This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among 209 high school seniors ages 17-18 and 2,188 hiring and human resource managers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, non-government) between May 13 and June 6, 2014 (percentages for some questions are based on a subset, based on their responses to certain questions). With pure probability samples of 209 and 2,188, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results have sampling errors of +/- 6.78 percentage points and +/-2.10, respectively. Sampling error for data from sub-samples is higher and varies.

About CareerBuilder®
CareerBuilder is the global leader in human capital solutions, helping companies target and attract great talent. Its online career site, CareerBuilder.com®, is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors and 1 million jobs. CareerBuilder works with the world's top employers, providing everything from labor market intelligence to talent management software and other recruitment solutions. Owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), Tribune Company and The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI), CareerBuilder and its subsidiaries operate in the United States, Europe, South America, Canada and Asia. For more information, visit www.careerbuilder.com.

Media Contact
Jennifer Grasz
[email protected]

SOURCE CareerBuilder

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