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Study: South has 'middle-skills' worker shortage

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The South has a shortage of workers to fill middle-skills jobs such as medical technicians and computer support workers, even as many four-year graduates struggle to repay student loans, according to a study released Sunday.

The report released by the National Skills Coalition during the Southern Governors Association meeting in Asheville shows that 51 percent of all jobs in the American South fall into the "middle-skills" category, requiring education and training beyond high school but less than a four-year degree. Highly skilled jobs make up 29 percent of the job market; low-skill occupations make up 20 percent.

"What we are calling middle skills can actually be high-level skills, with some jobs paying $50 an hour," North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue said. "That's why I prefer to call them career-skill sets."

In North Carolina, 51 percent of available jobs fall into the middle-skills category. The study says 43 percent of job seekers are able to meet those qualifications.

Panelist James Wiseman, of Toyota Motors Corp., said his company struggles to find qualified workers for jobs as electricians, maintenance, and tool and die technicians - jobs that often pay between $50,000 and $75,000 a year.

The region's average among all jobs for annual full-time pay is $38,900.


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