In my area there is a high demand for technical jobs in general, and there has been a big shift to certificates for almost all skillsets in our local aircraft industry. This is because it was demanded by employers who had a hard time finding workers who met the traditional degree requirements, and they realized they could tart with basic knowledge, and then advance from there while working. Maybe the GIS sector is behind a bit in catching up to this. Here, our bigger high schools are slowly becoming community colleges and tech schools. It would be interesting to see what those that hire for GIS actually look for most of all, and how much they are willing negotiate in terms of experience and education. I know several workers who moved into GIS from other fields within the same employer and their training was only ESRI certifications or online free training. As far as my students at our school, we don't have a large enough CTE GIS program, I don't think, to help them qualify for entry level jobs, for the same reasons you have mentioned. Some of the other tech skills should be woven in more, like the coding side, and also some sort of internship experience would really help be marketable. Given these things, I think it is very likely some places might consider a recent graduate for an entry level GIS Tech position.
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