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Who’s Hiring: Industry Insights on Living Wage Opportunities

On the Hunt for Living Wage Jobs

Living-wage careers represent an effective and reliable path out of poverty for many of the 250,000 Memphians living in poverty. A living-wage is defined as the threshold required to meet all basic needs and live with modest means. The median wage for the more than 200,000 Memphians working in low-wage jobs is $9.73 per hour, while the living-wage for a single-person household is $13.67 per hour.

Pathways to living-wage employment Memphians living in poverty can be incredibly difficult to access. An MMDC Hire Local participant shared with MemWorks, “I mean, since I was 17 years old, I’ve never had a problem getting a job. The problem is it’s a low-paying job.”

Meanwhile, employers consistently share the need for more labor and the inability to find and retain talent. While there are four job openings for every job-seeking Memphian, job growth reached just 2.3% in 2022, far below the rest of the economy.

For many job seekers, finding a job that pays a living-wage is a challenge because of the lack of necessary experience, certifications, or degrees. For employers, many lack the mechanisms to hire, train, and retain employees outside of traditional pathways from 2-year and 4-year degree academic institutions.

Workforce Breakdown by Industry

The largest industry sectors in Greater Memphis by number of employees in 2022 were:

  1. Healthcare and social assistance – 103,940 jobs
  2. Transportation and warehousing – 76,051 jobs
  3. Manufacturing – 73,546 jobs
  4. Retail, administrative/support roles, and waste management – 59,883 jobs (collectively)

The fastest-growing industries in Memphis are healthcare and social assistance, transportation and warehousing, and a newcomer, advanced manufacturing. Living-wage jobs are available in each of these sectors for candidates with the appropriate training and certifications.

Healthcare and Social Assistance

With an aging population and insulation against automation, the healthcare and social assistance sector is expected to provide more than 80,000 jobs by 2030, the second largest by industry. While Home Health and Personal Care Aides might not themselves be a living-wage job, they represent a path to living wage employment for those who seek additional higher-level certifications.

Many local institutions including MMDC, TCAT, Southwest Community College, and Concorde Career College provide programs for the following certifications that can set someone on a path to a living-wage career:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA)
  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
  • Certified Medical Assistants (CMA)
  • Registered Medical Assistant (RMA)
  • Home health aide training programs

Transportation and Warehousing

As the home of FedEx and the base of operations for several other large companies’ logistics operations, the transportation and warehousing industry is rapidly expanding in Memphis. More than 50,000 of these positions belong to Laborers and hand freight, stock, and material movers, stockers and order fillers, and truck drivers.

Competition to fill these roles has led to entry-level wages exceeding the minimum wage, however, future automation, physical demands, and high turnover rates limit career mobility.

Long-term, living-wage career paths exist in the industry:

  • Transportation and distribution manager roles grow into logistics coordinators
  • Compliance assistants and transportation clerks grow into transportation inspectors
  • Transportation coordinators and dispatchers grow into supervisor roles across the industry

Initial certifications like Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) or Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) are frequently required for these entry-level roles. The higher-paying roles people can progress into can pay, in some cases, more than $60,000 to $80,000 per year.

Advanced Manufacturing

While this category covers a gamut of high-tech manufacturing roles, electric vehicles, and batteries are a particularly fast-growing part of this industry. With projects including Blue Oval City in the pipeline, the local electric vehicle industry is expected to directly employ more than 10,000 jobs and indirectly employ 9,000 jobs by 2027. While not all Memphians will be in a position to commute to Blue Oval City, the workers that are able to commute will leave behind jobs in Memphis that are more accessible from a transportation standpoint.

There are shortages of over 7,000 workers in several areas of advanced manufacturing:

  • Precision metal workers – 2,257 job openings
  • Vehicle maintenance and repair occupations – 2,225 job openings
  • Heating, air conditioning, ventilation, and refrigeration maintenance occupations – 1,919 job openings

Each of these occupations offers a living-wage or a clear path to a living-wage role. Each occupation area has certifications that can be completed locally at TCAT, Southwest Community College, Southwest Career & Technology Center, Remington College, and MooreTech.

Paving a Way to Prosperity

There are an abundance of living wage-jobs available for those who can obtain the technical credentials and certifications. By addressing fundamental roadblocks we can help people access the technical training needed to gain fulfilling, living-wage employment with opportunities for advancement. MemWorks has illuminated how Memphis can forge a path out of poverty for many and become a road map for communities like ours across the country.

Who’s Hiring: Industry Insights on Living Wage Opportunities