More generally, if the labor market is not enticing students to pursue particular fields, should public policy push them to do so? Manufacturers, for example, have long complained about the shortage of students interested in machinist training programs and assert that the cause has been that schools and guidance counsellors were not advocating for those programs. But the pay for such jobs has declined by 20 percent in real terms over the past two decades while the skill requirements for those jobs have shifted toward computer use, a field with better pay. The number of machinist jobs has already declined by 20 percent in that period (the total number of jobs in the economy has increased by 40 percent) and is expected to decline further (Cappelli 2012). The reasons why there has been a decline in the number of students taking vocational education courses that could prepare them for manufacturing jobs merits further attention, but we should not assume that it is independent from the attractiveness of the jobs offered at the end of those programs.Of course, I find this paper compelling and worthwhile, but I would, wouldn't I? Read the whole thing -- I have more comments later.
UPDATE: I don't know why, but it seems that people are having a paywall for the NBER and I did not. Here's a Google Docs version.