If you’re a young person entering the job market, this has probably happened to you. You’re applying for jobs that require job experience, and so can never get the job experience required. This catch-22 is all too common these days, and it’s a result of an education system that isn’t truly supplying students with appropriate experience and skills to get hired.
This gap between education and job readiness was addressed in a Huffington Post editorial. Gone are the days when your college degree means there will be jobs waiting for you. Only 27% of graduates are reporting being hired for positions related to their main course of study. There is now a growing population of indebted grads accepting employment below their level of education. So why is the return on investment for a degree so low at the moment? Part of the reason is certainly the lack of new jobs being created coupled with an increasing number of college grads entering the workforce…or at least trying to.
But there’s something else going on here. Employers are reporting skepticism to hire recent college graduates. Recruiters are finding that recent graduates are not prepared for a job related to their major. And you may have heard recent news about entire industries reporting extreme difficulty finding available, qualified workers. 5% of jobs in the country are unfilled due to a lack of capable candidates! It’s a paradox, and one that requires attention. Failing to meet the education needs of industry could become a major impediment to the national economy, as well as all the other problems that arise when unemployment remains high.
Much of the disparity, the unrequited need for skilled labor, is in the manufacturing industry. The energy industry is also facing a wall, with a large percentage of their workers about to retire, booming new alternative energy jobs about to open up, and a set of required skills seldom addressed in the typical liberal arts program.
One of the solutions on the table is a marriage of two educational styles. Vocational training is valuable in the direct application of skills for industries that are hiring. Online education is convenient and inexpensive. Together, these two styles may provide a solution that could have a major impact. What needs to happen before we reap the benefits of this idea is for an entire educational industry to be developed around it. There is currently no infrastructure for marking, curriculum, enrollment, etc. There is also a negative perception to fight against. Vocational programs are often viewed as gritty and purely mechanical. Communicating the creativity, the problem-solving, the teamwork will be necessary to attract young professionals looking for a sense of fulfillment from their education and work life.