Hawai'i State News

New study shows 70% of future Hawai‘i jobs will require postsecondary education

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Seventy percent of all jobs in Hawaiʻi in 2031 will require postsecondary education beyond high school and 36% will require at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a new report by Georgetown University, After Everything: Projections of Jobs, Education, and Training Requirements through 2031.

The report demonstrates the important role postsecondary education will play in preparing the workforce of the future, according to Hawaiʻi P–20 Partnerships for Education Executive Director Stephen Schatz.

“I think there is a misconception now that there are jobs that are great right here in Hawaiʻi that you can get right after high school with just a high school diploma and that’s just not the case,” said Schatz. “We’re seeing that you need some kind of training whether that’s an apprenticeship program, whether it’s a degree at a community college or whether it’s a four-year degree—some kind of post-high school training and education is what’s going to get our kids into local jobs.”

Nationally in 2021, about 68% of all jobs required at least some postsecondary education. By 2031, the report projects that 72% of jobs will require postsecondary education or training, and 42% of all jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree.


“We’ve seen waves of this in the past, but the growing doubt about the value of a college degree is alarming. Couple the influx of infrastructure jobs with politicians on both sides saying people don’t need degrees, and you get a generation of young people who think college isn’t necessary,” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce Director and lead author Anthony P. Carnevale said. “But our findings show, once again, that postsecondary education and training has become the threshold requirement for access to middle-class status and earnings. It is no longer the preferred pathway to middle-class jobs; it is increasingly the only pathway.”

According to the report, the number of jobs in Hawaiʻi will increase from 591,000 in 2021 to 624,000 in 2031, with an average of 72,000 job openings annually, from new jobs and jobs that open for other reasons, most frequently retirement. Of the 72,000 annual job openings, 51,000 will be for workers with postsecondary credentials, 18,000 will be for those with a high school diploma and 3,000 will be for those with less than a high school diploma.

“As the jobs become more competitive, the type of skill sets required becomes more vast and expansive, they do need a more prepared and educated workforce,” said Sherry Menor-McNamara, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii’s president and CEO. “While some high school graduates will go directly to careers, it’s also important for students to explore the opportunity to go the college route so that they can expose themselves to not only the curriculum but also what a university affords.”


There are several initiatives underway at UH to prepare the workforce of the future for Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiʻi P–20 Council—a group composed of education, business, and community leaders– launched “Hawaiʻi Graduates for Hawaiʻi’s Future” to ensure that all stakeholders are working together to align the education pipeline with workforce needs.

The UH Strategic Plan 2023–29 also identifies developing successful students for a better future, meeting Hawaiʻi’s workforce needs and diversifying Hawaiʻi’s economy through UH innovation and research as top priorities.

“As the sole provider of higher education in the state, the 10-campus UH system, and supporting UH, will be key in preparing the workforce of the future,” said Schatz. “It begins in recognizing the value of post-secondary education. It’s not only for the good of our collective state, it’s about the impact higher education can have on an individual as it is, by far, the best way to boost economic mobility.”


UH Economic Research Organization researchers found that lifetime earnings are $2.8 million for bachelor’s degree holders, 27% higher compared to those without a degree, and $2.7 million for Associate of Science and Associate of Applied Science degree holders, 22% higher than those without a degree.

UHERO also found that while college tuition has significantly increased nationally over the last 20 years, even after adjusting for inflation, tuition within the UH system has become more affordable over the last decade.

See this UH News story for more on the UHERO report.

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