Sunday, September 11, 2011

ATL education gap hurts employment prospects...,

AJC | Employment in metro Atlanta has been hurt in recent years by the area's dependence on troubled job sectors, including administrative and support services, and specialty trade contracting. One thing that's helped the employment rate has been a relatively strong supply of educated workers.

But a new report from the Brookings Institution says the area's "education gap" is growing and could become a problem if the trend is not reversed. The education gap refers to the difference between local employer demand for educated workers and a community's ability to provide enough of them.

Metro Atlanta had the nation's fifth-largest increase in education gap from 2005-2009, the study found. No market of comparable size was in the top 10.

"People aren't getting educated fast enough to keep up with what industries are requiring. If that gap continues to grow, Atlanta could really be hurt by it," said Jonathan Rothwell, a Brookings senior research analyst and one of the authors of the report.

Rothwell said Atlanta has benefited from the presence of top-quality major universities and that its education gap "currently is not a huge problem. The average worker still has more education than is required for the average job. That's a good thing. It's helped Atlanta's unemployment rate stay lower than it otherwise would be."

Metro areas with larger education gaps had consistently higher unemployment rates than those with smaller gaps, the report said.

Atlanta ranked 41st among 100 metro areas in education gap in 2009. It ranked 74th in industry composition, the other factor Brookings used in examining unemployment rates in individual metro markets.