There are not enough jobs for college graduates whose degrees are in non-STEM areas. STEM stands for skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I know, because as a university professor and parent, I have learned about the predicaments of many young graduates. The plight of Tom K. is a case in point. He graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in history, but the only decent-paying job that he could find was one in construction. Last year’s valedictorian from one of the top 25 law schools is still looking for work, according to a lawyer friend.
These anecdotal stories are buttressed by a report from Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce. The authors project that by 2018, only 23% of jobs will require a bachelor’s degree, and 10% will require a graduate degree. Put differently, 67% of jobs in 2018 will not require a college or graduate degree.
In short, we are producing far too many college graduates who are finding that the job market has little use for them. To add insult to injury, the typical college graduate is saddled with an average of $25,250 in student loans, a yoke that is heavy to bear. The combination of debt and dim job prospects have together provided the kindling that has ignited the “Occupy Wall Street Movement.”
Our current predicament is addressed in the report “Blueprint for Jobs in the 21st Century,” which was compiled by the Human Resource (HR) policy Association. The HR executives indicated that many good paying jobs are going unfilled, because our educational institutions and government training programs are producing workers who lacked the necessary, technical skills. In addition, the authors of the report indicate that we are gutting our high school vocational training programs, thereby exacerbating the problem.
For example, the New York Times reported that President Obama is prioritizing increasing academic standards and college graduation rates while reducing federal expenditures for vocational training in public high schools and community colleges. The objective to produce a higher percentage of college graduates is reminiscent of our previous public policy to increase the percentage of Americans who own homes. Is the administration unknowingly creating another bubble? Call it the bachelor degree bubble (too many B.A.s and not enough jobs) as opposed to the housing bubble (too many houses, and not enough viable buyers)?
Recommended Course of Action
What opportunities are there for the 67% who need training for work?
First, we must realize that having a bachelor’s degree is not a guarantee to a job, as it once was. We must create a strong vocational option for high school students, so that they can go on to develop the skills that are needed by future employers.
According to HR professionals, certain jobs are going “begging.” During a December 12, 2011 speech before the Economic Club of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s mayor, indicated that while the city struggles with a 10 percent unemployment rate, more than 100,000 jobs are available.
Skilled trades are always in constant demand. For example, AMR, an aircraft leasing company, indicated that it has 500 openings for aviation mechanics. Experienced mechanics can earn as much as $56,000 a year. Also, rewarding careers are available in occupations such as health care, information technology, etc.
But to develop the requisite skills in these fields, workers need education for jobs and/or apprenticeships. Earlier this week it was announced that the City Colleges of Chicago plans to provide vocational training to meet the needs of business in industries such as health care, and supply chain management.
Government, educational institutions and industry must work together to restructure the educational system. Only by doing so can young people acquire the requisite skills and training that employers seek. Developing these skills will enable youth to be able to earn a living wage, and achieve a productive career.
What is your view? Should we put resources into increasing the graduation rates for undergraduate degrees? Or should we put our resources into developing vocational and technical schools and/or career paths?