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PREDICTING THE FUTURE: ACT Projects Future Workforce for States, Finds Many High School Graduates Unprepared for Success in College

“Educators, employers, as well as workforce and economic development officials, can gain a more focused perspective on how well the interests of students in the educational pipeline align with the demands of high growth jobs in that state.”

Earlier this month, using data from the 2008 ACT for high school graduates and long-term occupational projections provided by states, ACT created a profile of the future workforce in thirty-one states. Dubbed the “Future State Workforce Gap Summary,” each profile lists the five highest-growth career fields for the state and compares the projected annual job openings in these fields to students’ interest in pursuing a career in them.

“Educators, employers, as well as workforce and economic development officials, can gain a more focused perspective on how well the interests of students in the educational pipeline align with the demands of high growth jobs in that state,” said Martin Scaglione, president and chief operating officer of ACT’s Workforce Development Division. “These profiles help present a view of the employees of tomorrow and how well their interests are aligning with future needs of the workforce.”

In Michigan, for example, ACT identifies management (convention planners, hotel/restaurant managers, etc.), education (secondary teachers, administrators, etc.), engineering (architects, mechanical engineers, etc.), health care (nurses, occupational therapists, etc.), and computer specialties (computer programmers, database administrators, etc.) as the top five career fields. However, according to the report, while there is some interest among Michigan high school students in pursuing these career fields, it is not enough to meet the demand, as indicated by the gaps between expected job openings and interested students in the graph below.

Graph: Projected Annual Job Openings and Michigan High School Students' Interest in High-Growth Michigan Career Fields


In addition to examining how well graduates were matched to future openings, ACT also analyzed how well-prepared students were to succeed in college. For example, while ACT did not find a gap between students interested in the engineering field and the jobs that will be available to them, it did find that most of the interested students are not ready to succeed in the college-level courses that they will encounter in their chosen field. As indicated in the graph below, more than half of high school graduates are not ready for college-level courses in English, reading, math, and science according to the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in those subjects.1

Graph: ACT College Readiness Benchmark Performance of Michigan High School Students by Career Fields by Subject


As the report notes, more than one half of Michigan students are prepared for first-year college course work in English for three of the five high-growth career fields, but fewer students are prepared to succeed in college-level social science courses.

“Overall, the pattern of readiness for college coursework is similar across the five high-growth career fields,” the report reads. “Student preparation is highest for English and social sciences, and much lower for math and science. The lower levels of preparation among graduating high school students is alarming, given the high demand for science- and math-intensive careers such as nursing, pharmacy, and teaching.”

In order for ACT to create a profile for a state, the state must have had 25 percent or more of its 2008 graduates ACT-tested and had at least one hundred or more students represented in that state’s highest growth career fields.

The Future State Workforce Gap Summary, including links to the thirty-one states for which ACT performed an analysis is available at

1. The ACT College Readiness Benchmark is the minimum score needed on an ACT subject-area test to indicate a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or about a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding credit-bearing college courses.

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