Skip to comments.College grads learning good jobs hard to find now (employers note "skill gap")
Posted on 07/01/2012 3:24:51 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Andi Meuth earned a history degree from Texas A&M in May and has applied for 150 jobs, so far with no luck.
Jon Ancira graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology last year, but can't find work that uses his degree. After six months of searching, the 26-year-old did finally land a job at a bank.
Alex Ricard, 21, is grateful to be using his electronic media degree from Texas State at a social media startup company, but it's an unpaid internship.
He says he's sent out three to five resumes a week for the past two months, with almost no response from prospective employers. When he does hear back, he says, it's most often that he doesn't have enough experience.
While the particulars for each graduate are different, the overarching narrative has become familiar.
Up to half of all recent college grads are jobless or underemployed, doing low-wage work outside their chosen fields, according to a widely reported analysis this spring by the Associated Press.
These young women and men still have high expectations as do their parents that a college degree will pay off, despite rising tuition and the resulting debt.
But increasingly, say economists and workforce experts, there is a mismatch in today's job market between graduates' skills and those needed in the fastest-growing career fields.
The recession changed the economy permanently, economists say. In this largely jobless recovery, millions of mid- and entry-level positions are gone, the work now automated.
Many of those with college degrees who do find jobs can expect lower salaries and reduced earning potential over their working lives. Rising debt the average graduate carries about $25,000 in loans can push the often-necessary advanced degree out of reach.
Locally, the unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year-olds has been about twice as high as the overall rate.
Psych degree overload
Ricard still holds out hope that his degree will eventually lead to a job, given the increased importance of social media and digital technology, but he has his limits: August.
If I haven't found something by then, he said, even though I'd like to think my days of fast-food jobs are behind me, it becomes less about the job I want and more about the job I need at that point.
Not all graduates face such dire straits. Those with in-demand degrees in areas such as engineering, information technology and nursing enjoy much brighter job prospects.
Kevin Davis, who earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin, had three job offers before he graduated in May. He took a job with Toshiba in Houston.
John Hollman will graduate from Austin Community College in December with a two-year associate degree in nursing. The San Antonio native already has two job offers, one from his current employer of nine years, Texas Oncology.
But employers and workforce agencies say the labor market is suffering from a jobs-skills mismatch.
Psychology, for example, is the third-most-popular four-year degree in Texas and one of the fastest growing, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, a public agency that works to bring people and jobs together.
Problem is, there's almost no demand at that level, said Eva Esquivel, communications manager with the agency.
More than 5,000 people graduated from Texas colleges and universities with bachelor's degrees in psychology in 2010, she said, to compete for four job openings in the field, with an annual salary of $22,000.
That's not even enough to pay student loans back, Esquivel said. Most psychology jobs require a higher-level degree and there still aren't many positions available.
Ancira, who saw some of his psychology research published while studying at Northwest Vista, one of the Alamo Colleges, said he found fewer research opportunities after transferring to UT.
Disenchanted, he looked into changing majors or getting an advanced degree, but the burden of $36,000 in student loans put him off.
Meuth, who lives in San Antonio, said she knew the job market for history majors without a master's degree or teaching certification was limited but decided to go for a major she was passionate about, even in a slumping economy. She wants to work in a museum eventually, which requires a master's, but is putting it off for now to avoid taking out any loans.
Conversely, Texas colleges graduated far fewer engineers than psychology majors in 2010 just 271 petroleum engineers, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, and demand far outstrips supply, especially as the Eagle Ford Shale continues to boom.
Starting pay for petroleum engineers averages $85,000, Esquivel said. For the 405 chemical engineers who graduated in 2010, it's about $60,000.
Skills in short supply
Chris Nielsen, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio, said the company has struggled to fill engineering positions and points to the healthy starting salary as proof of the competitive nature of the field.
But perhaps more crucially, Nielsen said that in the six years the company has been building trucks in San Antonio, it's never been able to fill all its trade positions, or what it calls skilled job positions.
Those include maintaining assembly-line robots, which Nielson said requires training in programming, hydraulics and pneumatics.
These are good, career-track positions, he said, many that pay in the $60,000 range.
Toyota is hardly alone.
Manufacturers surveyed in the latest Skills Gap report from the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, reported that roughly 5 percent of current jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates. That's as many as 600,000 unfilled jobs machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, technicians and more that manufacturers say hamper their ability to expand operations, drive innovation and improve productivity.
Those surveyed said the national education curriculum is not producing workers with the basic skills they need, and the trend is not likely to improve in the near term.
Tom Pauken, appointed to the Texas Workforce Commission by Gov. Rick Perry in 2008, has become a passionate advocate for greater vocational and technical training.
He laments what he calls a one size fits all approach to higher education, which assumes that everyone needs a four-year degree.
Those who do are often saddled with enormous debt and still can't find good jobs, he said. Meanwhile, there is a shortfall of qualified applicants for those with skills training as welders, electricians, pipe fitters and machinists.
Entry-level salaries for those jobs in the San Antonio area begin in the low- to-mid-$20,000 range, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, and rise to the upper $40,000s at the expert level.
In San Antonio, Alamo Colleges runs Alamo Academies, which aims to train high school juniors and seniors for skilled employment in fast-growing local industries, including aerospace, information technology and security, manufacturing and the health professions.
The academies, which are a partnership among the community college district, local industry and workforce agencies, also provide college credits, and expose students to occupations that require a college education. Students stay in their high schools, take about half their classes at the academy and participate in a paid internship in their chosen field.
After high school, graduates earn an average starting pay of more than $30,000 and will have earned a couple dozen college credits.
I tell students they need to do career planning even before education planning, said Esquivel, who travels a 12-county region talking to high school students about where job growth will occur in the coming years. I wish more students would take advantage of the information her agency has to offer.
Luisa Ramirez, the on-campus recruiting coordinator at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said she's seen an increase in freshmen who come to the career center seeking advice, rather than waiting until they're seniors.
They've seen their parents go through the recession, she said, So they're more aware.
Ancira said many recent graduates might be in for a rude awakening.
You go to school thinking you're going to graduate and there's going to be a job in an office waiting for you, he said, but a few years into it, you realize that's not really going to happen.
“Now finding a job that uses an undergraduate psychology degree, on the other hand...”
Start up a web business. The domain name “psycho-facebook.com” is avaliable. I see that psycho-termite control.net is also free.
The list is endless, man:
You can't fix this kind of stupid. Many of these mis-educated idiots will be going back to school to get an MBA or Law degree to pile on top of their under-grad fluff, and will just further degrade our corporations and politics.
Which is more insulting: Voting for Obama as a liberal or being degreed in psychology to recognize they are voting for a narcissist?
Oh BS, some jobs have been lost to automation, but millions have been exported with the exported manufacturing plants, and millions more white collar type jobs are being outsourced to India and many other nations.
Heard a recent radio spot discussing how more and more legal work is being outsourced to India. There is hardly a profession now that hasn't seen significant work outsourced: engineering, accounting, computer programming and other work, drafting, law, tax preparation, radiology and other medical related work, and not even to mention customer service and other types of call center work.
Some will continue to pretend that the above has little to do with our unemployment/underemployment situation and fiscal problems because so many campaign contributors now outsource work.
But don't worry, it's being made up for by the $1 trillion dollars now being spent annually on support program benefits that go mostly to working aged Americans. 60 million Americans now on Medicaid, and that will rise to 80 million if the Obamacare expansion is carried out. Similar stats for other government support programs.
I have a 21-year-old in the military and an 18-year-old in community college/working. I’m sorry that so many potentially productive young people believed that any degree was a ticket to easy wealth. Now they’re stuck.
I graduated with a degree in management in 1989 in a down economy. Couldn’t move for a job because I’d gotten married, so I started as a secretary at That Insurance Company and moved up. There aren’t as many secretary jobs these days, because people in the main lines of business believe a computer makes them competent to communicate, file, manage time, etc. It doesn’t, but whatever.
There are loads of businesses and industries where being smart is one of the top hiring criteria. Yeah, maybe not retail.
Good post. But there is time and certainly discussions with others about jobs available in their chosen field. A LOT of kids take the cue that they're barking up the wrong tree and switch out of dead end majors. Some just are biding their time in college 'till they have to go out and work (that loan money is just some far-away problem -- if they were working to pay for these classes they might just think twice about what their major is).
There aren’t too many well known politicians who aren’t narcissists. It’s just a matter of degree.
Perhaps they will show up to support the fall riots, and will learn something interesting.
"All Hat...No Cattle"
It is almost like a new saying can emerge these days something like...
College Ring...Ain't worth a thing.
College bills...no skills.
History degree???? What the HELL would they be good for in the workplace?? NOTHING but be Mr. KnowitAll.
Ha ha ha. I have a history degree and wish I was a know-it-all! I fly jets off carriers now:)
Never seems to work out like that.
Cry me a river. My generation started out in the mail room and secretarial pool and they ended up doing pretty well for themselves. Well, until Obama came along...
We heard a tale from a law graduate to the effect that he pays rent for his office use to the law firm and commissions on any cases for which he can bill.
I consider my place in this economy right now to be a unique one. From my engineering background to my natural inquisitive mindset on how things work, how to make them work and how to make them, I can keep myself busy with work of all types. As an independent contractor I pick and choose the work and projects that people need my services to bring to reality. Essentially, I make people ideas become real and am very deft at fixing things.
This is of added value if the economy goes totally off the rails and we become like Greece where a barter system is what they are relegated to. But in reality, is not everybody involved in some sort of barter system anyway?
You can’t go wrong being a garbage man.
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