As a new flock of students prepares to head off to college in the fall, they face a mix of good and bad news.

Over the next 10 years, Hawaii’s economy is expected to keep producing jobs: not just low-paying hospitality positions, but better paying fields in healthcare and management. On the other hand, sophisticated technology jobs will be relatively hard to find compared to other western states.

Those findings are among the host of economic and labor statistics posted on the University of Hawaii Community Colleges’ Career Explorer. The tool is central to work UH officials are doing to align the talents and interests of today’s students with the workforce needs of an evolving economy.

The idea is to take massive amounts of occupational data, including projections for the future, create degree and certificate programs based on skills industry executives say they want workers to have, and then communicate that information to students.

“Instead of selling degrees, we want to sell careers,” says Peter Quigley, vice president of academic affairs for the University of Hawaii’s community colleges. “And the degree is just a way to get there.”

The University of Hawaii Community Colleges’ Career Explorer predicts jobs in healthcare and management to be the fastest growing occupations over the next decade. UHCC

Although the site dates back to 2015, Quigley and his colleagues have recently added new features. Among them is a career explorer page that offers things like online assessments students can use to find careers that match their personality types. There are also templates showing educational requirements for various careers, in fields as varied as cyber-security, teaching and finance.

High demand occupations are marked with a flame-shaped icon.

UH has conferred with business and industry leaders to find out what jobs the industries expect they’ll need to fill and what skills workers will need to fill them, Quigley said. The UH system is creating curricula, including certificate programs and two-year programs, to train students for those jobs.

The purpose isn’t to steer students to a particular occupation or discourage them from pursuing their dreams, Quigley said. Instead, it’s to contribute to a conversation about how students who have a goal can get there, whether the goal is a particular occupation or simply a lifestyle that they will need a job to support.

“We’re trying to start with the end in mind,” he said.

As much as the site provides a roadmap for future job seekers, it also provides something for a broader audience: a trove of information on the Hawaii economy. This includes national data from Economic Modeling Specialists International, which assembles up-to-date statistics from sources such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“You’ve got the entire economy of the state of Hawaii on this site,” Quigley says. “It’s got every job, and they’re listed in real time.”

Paul Sakamoto, UHCC’s software/applications developer, is continually coming up with new ways to visualize economic data to show how the state’s economy works. Do you want to know where Waianae residents work, for instance? The site can show you commuting patterns for specific zip codes.

Peter Quigley, vice president of academic affairs for the University of Hawaii community colleges, is producing a road map students can use to chart pathways to careers. Stewart Yerton/Civil Beat

It also shows trends for Hawaii occupations.

For example, the data shows solid demand for health care jobs and a range of management level jobs over the next decade. Registered nurses, nursing assistants and medical assistants top the list of high-demand jobs in coming years. The Top 10 also includes licensed practical and vocational nurses, medical service managers and post-secondary teachers.

Knowing what jobs are available and what education and training are needed for those jobs is especially important to students facing the prospect of big debts to pay for college, Quigley said. He also has served as interim vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and chancellor at Leeward Community College.

“They expect it to pay off because they’re paying for it,” he said.

Still when it comes to high-tech jobs, Hawaii’s economy is woefully weak.

As jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics go, software developer positions are the bellwether, the leading job STEM occupation among the western states. But in Hawaii, the highest demand STEM jobs aren’t in much demand.

The software developer field, which is expected to represent Hawaii’s top STEM occupation over the next 10 years, will produce just 188 new and replacement jobs annually, the Hawaii Career Explorer predicts. Hawaii’s programmer jobs are dwarfed not only by those in a tech powerhouse like Washington, which the site predicts will have about 13,500 openings annually, but other western states, as well.

Even accounting for Hawaii’s relatively small population, Hawaii’s broader tech economy lags behhind the region. As a ratio of new jobs to population, Hawaii also finishes second to last, besting only Alaska.

“Hawaii’s Changing Economy”  series is supported by a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation as part of its CHANGE Framework project.



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