High Cost of ‘Mal-employment’

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Professor Andrew Sum from the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University has done a great deal of research on the effect of the most recent recession on the youngest cohorts in our economy.  (I wrote about other of his research here.)

A recent CNNMoney article highlighted some interesting data from Dr. Sum’s most recent research efforts. And it has to do with the ability of recent college graduates to enter the economy in jobs that require their degrees.

Recent college gradsWith unemployment still above 7%, it’s not hard to understand that young people armed with a newly minted degree and little experience are having a hard time connecting to jobs. People with degrees and lots of experience are having a hard time connecting to jobs.

While we know that the data regarding the lifetime earnings differential for college graduates is a compelling argument for college attendance, the “mal-employment rate” together with the student debt-load most graduating college seniors are burdened with might be making young people have second thoughts about investing in a four year degree. And that’s bad news.

The Lumina Foundation tracks our progress towards attaining the national goal that 60% of Americans obtain a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. And in 2011, the last year for which the data are complete, the percentage of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 with two- or four- year college degrees was 38.7%. Our goal is 60%. Our current level is 38.7%. That’s really bad news.

Add to this the expectation that 65% of U.S. jobs will require some kind of postsecondary education by 2020 – and it’s really, really bad news.

These are difficult data points at the intersection of jobs, education and the talent pipeline. And they should be motivating us – all of us, in or out of HR – to think better about our workforce. Our organization’s workforce and our nation’s workforce.

Mal-employment might be the least of our worries in 2020.

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4 Comments

Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Education Deficit, Job Creation, Talent pipeline

4 responses to “High Cost of ‘Mal-employment’

  1. I’d be interested to see what this data looks like over a longer trend. When I first graduated, I waited tables, worked as a freelance reporter, and volunteered on industry projects. None of my jobs required a degree, but the positions I earned one and two years later most certainly did. There has been plenty of evidence that today’s graduates are taking detours toward long-term plans, but this isn’t all bad. The lessons I learned waiting tables are often more helpful on the job than anything I’ve learned in a salaried position. No doubt we need to create opportunities, but we also need to teach our students and recent graduates to make opportunities for themselves, and area many seem to be well versed in already.

  2. Pingback: 5 Recruitment Marketing Articles of the Week 6.29.13 to 7.12.13 | SmashFly Recruitment Marketing Technology Blog

  3. Fraser

    It’s a good blog post, but the news is not all bad. First of all the US has one of the highest level of post-secondary education in the world and education attainment is increasing steadily (see : http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/education/data/cps/historical/ ) . Next, as a nation, education attainment is relative to other competing nations (if your concern is global international competition) and there is major gaps in the quality of education between countries: what is called a ‘university degree’ in China vs. India Vs. the US vs. the UK is actually a different level of of achievement. Finally, as Kyle points out, a degree is a piece of paper – it’s what you do with it that counts. We all know the stories of Zuckemberg, Jobs, Gates dropping out of college (not that I advise doing that!).
    Finally: ‘Our’ goal is not 60%. That belongs to the Lumina foundation, a private think tank.

  4. The above, coupled with the attitude of some recent graduates, is saddening. It is important to be proud of your degree but that degree alone does not give a candidate the option to make hiring demands to potential employers. There are some specialized degrees which might be the exception not the rule to most entry-level positions.

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