May 9 2014
College Educated but Jobless
Patrice J. Lee
Graduation season is upon us. Millions of Millennials will end their formal education with the flip of a tassel and crossover into the working world. The problem is too many of them have no jobs and the prospects grow bleaker.
Over the next month news outlets will have fun reporting on the big name commencement speakers from politics and Hollywood. A parade of former Presidents and cabinet members, comedians, talk show hosts, and television actors as well as former and sitting Congressmen will do their best to make funny speeches peppered with tepid advice to graduating seniors. However, there’s nothing funny about the job market these seniors are graduating into.
According to a new survey of graduating seniors, 83% have not secured a position as of last month although almost 75 percent were seeking employment. The situation is slightly worse than last year. Even more surprisingly, students with more “marketable” fields like engineering, technology or math are faring no better than their counter parts.
When you consider the mounting student loan debt in the tens of thousands that college graduates face individually and the fact that the effective unemployment rate for 18-29 year olds is 15.5 percent, we can see how dismal the situation looks for young people.
The LA Times reports:
Among seniors who will graduate over the next few weeks, 83% hadn’t landed a job as of last month, even though nearly 73% were actively seeking one, according to the poll by AfterCollege, a career-networking website. At this time last year, 80% of seniors hadn’t secured work.
Surprisingly, students who majored in purportedly marketable fields fared no better, the poll found. Among those getting degrees in engineering, technology or math, 81.6% didn’t have a job.
Business majors had no better luck, with 85.1% still pounding the pavement.
The thus-far fruitless searches have stirred doubt among students about the benefits of college.
Only 52% of seniors believe their schools properly prepared them to enter the working world, down significantly from 69.4% last year, according to the survey.
Parents and their young adults have every reason to be worried. For the past few decades, many families have been led to believe that the path to success is through a four-year college. The narrative goes something like this: Go to college, get a (bachelor’s) degree and you’ll land a good job afterwards.
Unfortunately, this has become a pipedream. A job – even an entry-level position- is no longer a guarantee or likelihood after college graduation.
With the labor market flooded with baccalaureates, a bachelor’s degree doesn’t hold the same weight it did before. Available positions are highly competitive. Not only are college seniors competing against other college seniors but those who have been out of schools for a few years and older workers laid off.
This news raises a couple of major policy issues. First, why is our economy not generating enough jobs? The national unemployment rate ticked down to 6.3 percent but the effective unemployment rate for our generation continues to hover between 15 and 16 percent. Even more almost 1.9 million young people have dropped out of the job market because they simply cannot find work.
What is the President focused on? Not job creation. Ever so often he pivots back to the economy to win brownie points, but his real focus has been on raising the minimum wage rate and ObamaCare. Both are policies that harm employment – especially for young people.
Second, is college the best pathway for career success for every student? Americans have been persuaded that every kid should go to (four-year) college to achieve success. That has created a stigma against careers in manufacturing and trades that require on-the-job experience more than a four-year degree. There are also two-year degrees and community colleges that are great options for some young people.
The key for moms, dads, and their kids is to look at each student’s individual talents, interests, and abilities to identify the best pathway for their success. It may be a four-year college degree or it may be an apprenticeship in a trade supplemented by extra courses.
Do you know the going rate for a plumber on a holiday weekend? Trust that it’s far more than entry-level positions that many college graduates still can’t get their hands on.
It’s time for us to consider alternative pathways to success for our students and for our leaders to push policies that promote all types of educational and career success.