Thursday, July 14, 2016

Available Job vs. Degree Mismatches Leave Too Many Grads Sitting In Their Parents' Basements

Molly could be in a high paying job paying off her college debts, instead of daydreaming in her childhood bedroom, had she just taken a logistics degree - as opposed to psychology - according to the Denver Post.

According to a piece in the new AARP Bulletin ('More Adult Kids Living With Their Parents', July-August, p. 6) a survey by Redfin Real Estate Brokerage finds that one fifth of homeowners age 55 to 64 have adult children at home causing them to remain in larger homes.  The same piece notes that "nearly one-third of millennials, or 32, 1 percent" now lie with their parents, the largest percentage in 130 years.

Meanwhile, a Denver Post story ('Postgrad Dismay', July 12, p. 9A) observes that a large part of this arises from recent college grads not having the right degrees. Hence, there is a mismatch between the actual jobs available and the skill set (or talent) offered by the new grads looking for jobs. It speculates that this is one major reason why so many young grads are holed up in their parents' basements.

Just how bad is the jobs-degree mismatch? According to the Post, "the state graduates 15 times more students with physical science degrees than there are actually open positions to absorb them".. In other words, these students end up working at jobs - if they work at all - that represent significant underemployment, say like Starbucks baristas.

The situation isn't much better for life science major who graduate in numbers nearly 13 times greater than the available open positions in the state.

But Business majors of all types need to take a deep breath before they get too smug. According to the Post's statistics there were 28,837 graduates this year with management degrees while there were only 5, 756 job openings for those with such degrees. By contrast, there were 15, 359 office support positions open but only 2,020 with degrees in that area. A vast mismatch.

The same Post study found no less than 4,417 more job openings for logistics majors than there were actually grads available to fill them. Logistics? What the hell kind of major is that? For sure it wasn't anywhere around 40 years ago! Anyway, by googling "logistics major" one learns:

 "A program that prepares individuals to manage and coordinate all logistical functions in an enterprise, ranging from acquisitions to receiving and handling, through internal allocation of resources to operations units, to the handling and delivery of output. Includes instruction in acquisitions and purchasing, inventory control, storage and handling, just-in-time manufacturing, logistics planning, shipping and delivery management, transportation, quality control, resource estimation and allocation, and budgeting."

The depth of these mismatches discloses something seriously amiss with our corporate employment system. In particular, it has become infested by a business culture too obsessed with specific training and degree skills, rather than imparting these skills in on the job training as used to be the case. Case in point: why is it not possible for a sizeable proportion of the business management grads to take logistics major jobs? I mean, the latter is just a synergistic extension of general management, right?  Or am I being too na├»ve for the new Neolib system?

When I took my first job in 1967 as a geologist's assistant for an Oil corporation, I had no training in petroleum geology nor had I even taken a single course in geology. Under today's peddled malarkey, I'd therefore merit being jobless for not possessing the correct and specific skill set. But in truth, the company understood that 99% of all applicants would lack such prerequisites, so had developed a training program where one learned on the fly.
With this job, I was able to establish my independence at age 20, and get my own apartment on Canal St. in New Orleans. Meanwhile, today's debt-slave kids are seeing hell, and 5.9 million between 21 and 34 have had to move back in with their PARENTS! But what else can they do when the jobs that are available (mainly desk clerks, telemarketers and retail) are unable to deliver that independence, far less pay off monstrous college loans?
So the additional question arises: why couldn't those companies with 15, 359 office support positions open at least train some of the 23,000 - odd business management degree majors who didn't find specific management jobs?  (Or perhaps jobs in logistics) Are the job duties that different, to the extent the talents of the management majors sit idle and waste away in parent's basements? Please. "Office support? Are you nuts? I'm in management!"  Fair enough, so would you rather be a barista until a management position opens up?

In similar vein, why couldn't a psych major like "Molly"-  shown above-  be trained in logistics? Isn't there a basic level to which she could contribute to be able to get out on her own and pay off some of her college debt?  I mean for her to get a B.A. or B.Sc. in psychology she can't be a dummy, after all.

My point also is that jobs can be organized to be done successfully even if a candidate doesn't have exactly the skills needed. Related to what I noted in my own case, only about 10% of the IT workers in Silicon Valley (during the tech boom of the 90s) actually had IT degrees. Technically, based on today's BS, they were no more qualified to do IT work than I was petroleum geology!   But what the IT companies then understood is that while it might be nifty to have an IT Ph.D. checking your network connections, it didn't really require that level of expertise and training could compensate for lack of skills.

But what do we find? American companies are no longer featuring or sponsoring training programs! Even basic apprenticeship programs have largely vanished along with management training programs.

Why? It appears a major reason is that companies feel they can now get the expertise they need without training, by setting up shops with lower cost Indian or other labor overseas. This saves them lots of money, but at the cost of leaving too many grad in the U.S. jobless. For the Neoliberal corporate CEO it's much better just to call on some Indian techie to get assistance with an American network problem than hire Americans to do it.  Or hire a temp techie out of the ubiquitous 'gig economy' since too many IT companies no longer value job security or benefits. (One big exception: Redfin out of Seattle, according to a Sunday NY Times Review piece.)

Of course, this deplorable situation also explains why so many out of work folks, especially recent college grads, are lining up to do unpaid internships - to acquire the skills they ordinarily would have with company training! But how long can they do that route when their college loan grace period expires after 6 months?

The same Post study offers no real solutions or much consolation, only to suggest that young people need to be much more judicious and selective about which degree majors they choose. But that's often easier said than done given that the Neoliberal economy is constantly changing with more and more 'gig' jobs being infused to replace permanent ones. In fact, the trend of Neoliberal job creation is only to have basically a top tier of relatively steady employment mainly in IT, engineering and some business areas.

More to the point, the forecast is for ever more jobs to be transient only, meaning there is no long term assurance a grad - even if she gets a great job - can keep it. The goal of the Neoliberal economy, after all, is first and foremost to expunge all citizen economic security.

The result is that for the foreseeable future young people, college grads, will have to deal with an unsettled and mismatched employment situation. Now, more than ever, the words of Intertel member and psychologist Steve Mason make sense as published in Integra (No. 9, Oct.  2010):

"The bottom line regarding a well -rounded education is that it has nothing to do with any kind of bottom line. Its value (non-monetary) is to be found in the quality it adds to one's life. It allows one to better appreciate music, art, history and literature. It contributes to a better understanding of language and culture, nature and philosophy. It expands rather than limits horizons and replaces faith and belief with reason and logic"

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