by Brent Pearson
Building a talented workforce with marketable skills for real-world employment begins with education. It is the building block on which a competitive workforce and strong economy are built. In Southeast Minnesota, 18,312 jobs in educational services accounted for more than $700 million in wages paid in 2011. Pick any national indicator and you are likely to find that Minnesota is one of the top states in the nation at educating its youth. Minnesota ranked second nationally with 91.8 percent of its high school students earning a high school diploma, and 11th in percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Educational Services Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the educational services industry as “…comprising establishments that provide instruction and training in a wide variety of subjects. . . All industries in the sector share this commonality of process, namely, labor inputs of instructors with the requisite subject matter expertise and teaching ability.” Essentially, the BLS classification is referring to teachers. While most jobs in education are public, teachers in the private sector are having an impact as well, and that impact is rising in Southeast Minnesota: of the 18,312 educational services jobs, 4,322 were in the private sector.
Private employment accounted for only 24 percent of all educational services employment in 2011, but the 9.9 percent increase since the year 2000 in the industry as a whole was spurred by a 19.7 percent increase in private employment within educational services (712 jobs) during the same time. The growth has been primarily driven by elementary and secondary schools. Employment in private elementary and secondary schools expanded by 16.4 percent between 2002 and 2012. While public education employment still outnumbers private by 10 to 1, that gap has shrunk since 2000. This increase in private educational services has been particularly rapid since the middle of the recession of 2007-2009.
Having educators in place is an important part of building an effective and highly skilled workforce. Seeing employment levels rise among those educators is a good indicator of Southeast Minnesota’s commitment to that process. Sustaining that workforce of educators by paying them at competitive wages is also important. If wages are competitive, the likelihood of those jobs remaining within the region increases. Typically, educators in postsecondary institutions are paid higher wages than those in elementary, preschool, high school, and other educational institutions.
In terms of employment, the largest education occupations in Southeast Minnesota include:
- Teacher assistants
- Elementary school teachers
- Secondary school teachers
- Middle school teachers
- Preschool and kindergarten teachers
- Special education teachers
Teachers and instructors within the educational services sector have been well served by an increase in jobs, decent wages, and clusters of growth among employers in three distinguishing locations: Winona, Rice, and Olmsted counties. Good teachers and educational institutions, with the support of good policy and programs to meet the needs of students, can help keep Minnesota near the top of national education rankings. Southeast Minnesota has been meeting this challenge in full force for well over a decade.