Each year for the next five years, there could be 699 more office managers than open jobs in South Central Washington, including Yakima.

Meanwhile, 267 conservation science jobs could be left unfilled, waiting for a qualified employee.

All this is according to CORI, the Credential Opportunities by Region and Industry Matrix, a new tool developed by the nonprofit group Washington STEM to predict gaps between supply and demand for family-sustaining jobs.

It was created to ensure that students aren’t going through post-secondary training that doesn’t align with industry needs, so that schools can better guide their career paths.

It pulls from a range of existing resources like the state Employment Security Department’s occupations in demand list and MIT’s living wage calculator to predict future trends.

Based on data pulled from CORI and feedback from industry experts across fields, there are projected to be nearly 5,800 family-wage sustaining jobs with openings in the South Central region each year for the next five years, said Danny Gross, communications director for Washington STEM. The region covers Yakima County, Kittitas County, and parts of Grant and Klickitat counties.

Entry-level openings include construction, education, libraries, health care and technical occupations. Nearly 70 percent of these jobs require a credential beyond high school. The same research shows there likely will be an undersupply of qualified applicants for positions like teachers and registered nurses, Gross said.

Local efforts

A local network is working to narrow those gaps.

South Central STEM Network, a partner with Washington STEM based out of Yakima, was the recipient of a two-year grant last year from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focused on advising students how to successfully complete post-secondary programs.

Through the grant, the STEM network partnered with Davis, Eisenhower and Toppenish high schools to create advising teams focused on guiding students to careers expected to have demand and to provide support to help them complete credentials.

Each team was trained on how to use CORI to inform student guidance, said Mark Cheney, director of the South Central STEM Network. Experts in various fields then work as point-persons with industry experts — such as Bonnie Smith, a former health care provider and director of career and technical education at Toppenish High School, who connects with local medical experts to get insight on current industry needs.

While nurse and doctor positions are what are usually thought of when health care positions are talked about, Cheney said this relationship helped the network realize the need for supporting positions in the field.

A curriculum taught in a Pierce County school certifies high school students as home care aides for the elderly, for example. Rather than reinvent the wheel, said Smith, local high schools can look at using the curriculum to provide the same training and opportunity to local students.

Students get “trained and licensed in it, and it’s an entry into what they want to do,” Smith said of students interested in advancing in the medical field moving forward. “It’s a leg up.”

The information Smith gets can be absorbed by the other schools in the partnership, and the idea is that all high schools in the Central Washington region can take on these lessons and advisory approaches.

Cheney said the local predictions have also helped identify future job opportunities that don’t have local credential programs. This is what spurred the creation of an automation technician program at YV-Tech, which launched this school year in response to local employer demand. It is available to students at a variety of Valley high schools.

Support system

Once student career paths have been identified, educators need to ensure that students complete their credentials to get to the family-wage job on the other side, said Cheney. To do this, his team has been using data to analyze graduation rates from local and state programs so they can guide students toward institutions where they will see success.

They’ve also brought on a service to help students keep on track with graduation requirements, scholarships and enrollment, he said. They’re building networks for parents and students to connect with others from the Valley who have graduated from the same programs to help them navigate bumps in the post-high school process that might otherwise deter students from completing programs.

If the support system is successful, Cheney said, the local supply and demand gaps will begin to close. Already, he said, students are responding well to the advisory system that’s focused on not only getting them an education in their area of interest, but ensuring they have a job.

“They’re in control of charting their own interest-driven career path,” Cheney said.

Reach Janelle Retka at jretka@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @janelleretka