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I Am a Graduate So Show Me the Money: Seriously?

I Am a Graduate So Show Me the Money: Seriously?

Kids, don’t wait until you leave High School to finally start thinking about your life-long career. Parents, don’t wait until your kids have to move back home (or never leave home) to lend them some matured wisdom and guidance after they’ve experienced college disappointment or unfulfilled career dreams. Remember that old questions we were asked as kids: “What do you want to be when you grow up? What did you expect your future to be?”

College Degree

For as long as this writer can remember (four decades since my first job) people have debated the necessity of a college education (university education) as it relates to employment prospects. At least for the last 65 years the job and employment statistics have been a constant roller-coaster ride. The lowest jobless rate during this 65 year period was from 1951-1953 when unemployment levels dropped to 3.3%, 3.0% and 2.9%, respectively. The highest averages were during the years 1982 (9.7%), 1983 (9.6%), 2009 (9.3%) and 2010 (9.6%). The overall highest jobless numbers were 10.8% in November and December 1982. Over the full 65 year period the national average is 5.9%. The current unemployment rate for June 2015 is 5.3%.[1]

Education for the Job Market in the 1960s and 70s


During the 1960’s through the 1980’s students had the option of college preparation courses in High School (HS), a standard curriculum for those students undecided about college or believed that college was out of the question; while other students could opt for a vocational education. The Vocational Education (VoEd) students were separated from the rest of the student body so that they could attend courses specific to the skilled or semi-skilled career they expected to pursue (electrician, plumber, carpenter, construction worker, welder, etc.). The students that were sure they would go onto college received additional course work in HS to help them prepare for the rigors of a university education and campus life. All the rest of the HS students followed the standard curriculum and made their decisions after the fact. Many students that take the standard school curriculum ended up in the military (myself included) or in middle to low-paying, semi- and unskilled jobs. In some cases former HS students eventually entered into college later in life to help accelerate their earning potential; this includes many of military veterans (my-self included).

Moving Ahead

Today expectations by young people are even greater. From the 1990’s through the 2010s, and more so today, many young folks expected to go straight from HS into a well-paying job or straight to the college of their choice and further into a high paying executive position. Even students that go on to graduate with a college/university degree are not always seeing their dreams come true – at least not immediately. Little regard is paid to the expense of an education or whether or not the academic path they choose will result in a long-term career.

New graduates are experiencing career-to-earnings shock. Students that graduate become disappointed when they can’t find a job or the job they find does not live up to their dreams. For some graduates that want to be lawyers and doctors and expect to earn six figure incomes right out of college, find themselves disappointed and up to their necks in school debt. Many students complete a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) and expect to move right into a corporate management, director or chief executive job following graduation, only to wind-up in the company’s mail room or as a clerk. We’ve become an “immediate gratification” world. It’s the: “I want it my way and I want it now” syndrome.

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Vocational Education

In the past few years, there has been a significant push back towards vocational education (VoEd), technical schools and skilled labor professional certification. Businesses are recognizing the great need in the world for skilled laborers, technical skilled labor, semi-skilled jobs, professional certification skills; jobs that are often left unfilled because of the past over-emphasis placed on young kids to graduate from college.

Medical, Law, or Business – Where are the Jobs?

The U.S. is filled with lawyers and Masters of Business Administration (MBAs) while job shortfalls exist in the medical fields, especially a serious need for Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistance, Registered Nurses, License Nurses and medical technicians of every type. Of course, all the medical careers and teaching careers require at least some college; however, many nursing jobs and most medical technician jobs do not.

School teachers are becoming a critical career because of the higher certification and continuing education requirements as well as it being a higher pressure career than many new teachers expected. Schools are finding fewer and fewer people willing and able to fill the school district needs. The days of anyone with a degree can be a teacher is over; certification as a teacher is a necessity.

According to the June 2015, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report job gains occurred in:[2]

   Health Care added 40,000 jobs

   Architectural and Engineering Services (+4,000 this year)

   Retail Trade up 33,000 jobs

   Transportation (particularly Truck Transport) and Warehousing Jobs up 19,000 jobs in June 2015

   Food Services and Drinking Establishments (ironic isn’t it) jobs trended up in June 2015 (+30,000 jobs).

   Professional and Business Services up 40,000 jobs

   Computer Systems Design and Computer Repair and Services up 4,000 jobs

   Temporary and Consulting (contracted work) Jobs through Temporary Employments Agencies (Temp Agencies) and Consulting Businesses (or as I call them “High-Paid Temps”) up 20,000 jobs

   Financial Activities such as financing, investment, insurance, and accounting also increased (except for in-house Banking positions due to a drop in job numbers. This might be because of the continued emphasis on online banking).

The US Labor report for June 2015 also shows that employment in construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, information, and government, saw little or no change over the month.

Job Market Falls

Where the U.S. is hurting is in job growth is the farm business and mining. Many of the mid-sized farmers and ranchers are slowly being solely driven out of business by the larger corporate farming operations and by imported farm goods. Smaller farms succeed best only when they can sell their goods at local small town and county Farmers’ Markets as well as local small country stores. As for the Mining business, employment declined by 71,000 jobs, primarily in the mining support services jobs.

Don’t Focus on the Media and Political Rhetoric

Many media outlets and politicians, especially during those years when political pundits and politically motivated news services are vying for votes, will use the same statistics to imply completely opposite points of view. Much has been made in the media about college graduates finding that they having to accept low-paying jobs, food service jobs, or delivery jobs. Lately, some of this rhetoric implies that there is little value in the necessity of a college education in the current job market. Most of the criticism is about whether it will lead to a career or not. And this criticism is particularly skewed when it focuses on the many young people graduating with a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree struggle with finding work in their study major.

Don’t get hung up on the unemployment rates; focus on the job growth numbers in various and specific industries. Focus on the specific qualifications required to apply for those jobs. It’s not an issue of a job shortfall. There are a lot of available jobs out there. It’s a matter of qualifications and location, as well as being willing to accept a realistic compensation package. Be ready to move where the jobs are; jobs don’t have to come to you – you have to go to the job. What are the qualification requirements? What makes you stand-out as the best candidate for the job? Remember, no one owes you a job; no one owes you a big starting paycheck. You must be competitive, ready, qualified, and willing to do and go where the jobs exist.

Final Word

Today, young people have to really think about the career goals while still in High School. Young folks have to get smarter about their choices and consider alternate career options. Ask yourself: What are the job trends? Where is the job market heading? Where are the jobs these days? Where is technology taking us? Where should I focus my academic and career preparations? A university/college degree no longer guarantees a high paying white collar career. However, there are still a lot of jobs that do require a degree of some sort. A degree is not necessary for all careers; however, it is necessary for some.


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