As graduation day is becoming closer and closer, I can’t but wonder if I will find a job, or better yet, a job in my field. But the statistics aren’t very positive. According to Accenture’s U.S. college graduate employment research, 51% of recent graduates feel underemployed. This means that more than half of recent graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree. With the youth unemployment rates also high, the leap from university to the job market does not look very appealing. I have the privilege to study in Finland, where higher education is free, but how about the millions of young people who spend thousands of dollars in their education? Knowing that more than half of the people you study with will be underemployed after graduation, some even unemployed, and others back in education, means that a number of people from your class who are actually putting their education to use, is extremely low. Many with huge debts haunting them, this puts young people in a very unfortunate situation right at the beginning of their careers.
This is not just an issue that we as young people should be worried about. If young people, who are the future leaders of companies and countries, are not in decent jobs, the societies are losing at large. Policy makers should be worried about the resources they are spending on public education and the future of their country. Business leaders should be worried about who will operate and lead the companies in the future. There is no need educating people if there is no use for the education.
But what are the factors behind the high graduate underemployment rates? Is education not preparing us for working life? Or do jobs no longer require degrees? Here are three possible reasons behind the high rates of graduate underemployment:
- Education not preparing graduates with soft skills
Some say that it is because graduates do not have the required soft skills to perform in a workplace. Students are still encouraged to learn things by heart and write essays from books they have read from cover to cover. However, many times university does not prepare students for effective communication or enhance their problem-solving skills, which are essential for the working life.
- The required technical skills are changing faster than educators can keep up
Young graduates are usually missing even the basic technical skills that are needed in the 21st century, like Search Engine Optimization, programming, and web design. With even the basics missing, it is difficult to keep up to date with the constantly advancing technology. Education is failing to keep up with this pace, making young graduates, even more, less likely to be employed. There are many organizations that offer programming education online for free, but higher education institutions should also include it in their curriculums to make the skills more widespread and their graduates more employable.
- High employer turnover vs. Recruitment costs
Others argue, that because of high employer turnover and the financial resources it takes to hire and train a new person, companies are not so willing to recruit so often. Another possible reason for requiring fewer hires is the advanced technology as more and more tasks can be done automatically or by robots and artificial intelligence.
Whatever the reason is, it’s clear that it’s not just unemployment but also underemployment that is a challenge young graduates face more often than not, and it is the responsibility of all policy makers, educators and business leaders, to help equip the future leaders for a better future. As for me, I just have to wish that I’m within the about 18% that score a job that fits their degree.12