Unlike in the past, in today’s economy, higher education is very important to finding a good paying job. Workers with higher levels of education have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, as do the states with more workers with higher education. One strategy to help low-income and long-term unemployed workers is through the creation of career pathways. Career pathways are connected education and training services that expand access to post-secondary education and training for these workers.
The Center on Wisconsin Strategy and the Center for Law and Social Policy have created state profiles to estimate the number of adult workers in each state who are in need of better jobs and wages, and who would benefit from a career pathway. Each state profile estimates the number of adult workers (ages 25-64) who are without two- or four-year college degrees or have limited English skills and who earn less than the state median wage or are in the labor force but have not worked for the last year. And West Virginia is one of the states that would benefit the most from a stronger career pathway.
According the the profile, 39.4% of West Virginia’s workers need better skills and wages, the 13th highest percentage among the states. An estimated 263,531 workers in the state fit the profile. Most of those workers fit the profile due to low wages. 60.3% earned poverty-level wages, while 33.5% earned above poverty-level wages, but below the state’s median wage.
Most of the 263,531 workers who would benefit from a stronger pathway only have a high school education. Only 27.8% have some college education, while 15.0% have no high school diploma.
In addition, 55.7% of the workers are women, 7.6% are minorities, and 53.8% are below the age of 45.
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