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Abstract

The American middle-skilled labor market, which consists of jobs that require some postsecondary training but not a Bachelor’s degree, presents various opportunities for Americans to obtain good-paying, socially important occupations without the heavy burden of student debt. However, American employers are facing a challenge: finding employees with the qualifications to fill middle-skilled positions. Projections suggest that the employment gap will only be exacerbated over the course of the next 15 years in a business-as-usual scenario, slowing the growth of the economy and preventing low-skilled workers from ascending to middle-skilled positions. One population that faces sobering challenges in obtaining middle-skilled occupations is the Hispanic/Latinx immigrant community. As a case study, this thesis explores the participation of first and second-generation Hispanic/Latinx immigrants in Arizona middleskilled healthcare occupations (one of the fastest-growing labor submarkets in the U.S.). Through a variety of state and federal government data, as well as through interviews with key stakeholders in Arizona’s middle-skill healthcare market, this thesis aims to establish the potential of Hispanic immigrants to participate more heavily in middle-skilled occupations, as well as define the challenges that this demographic group faces in gaining middle-skilled employment in the healthcare market. The paper finds that Hispanic immigrants participate in middle-skill occupations at a lower rate and participate in low-skilled occupations at a much higher rate than other racial/ethnic groups. In addition, it finds that Hispanic immigrants face significant cultural and socioeconomic barriers in obtaining middle-skilled positions and that they often experience difficulty in navigating the disjointed path to middle-skilled certification and employment. This thesis will conclude with policy recommendations that promote wage growth for Hispanic individuals and improve the productivity in healthcare markets (and perhaps other markets) in which middle-skilled jobs constitute a significant portion of job growth.

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