More and more young people have access to higher education, making the minimum required degree for employment a bachelor’s degree in many developed countries. On the other hand, when facing unemployment, many young people choose to educate themselves even more, hoping that it would land them their dream job in the future. These two behaviors have resulted both in graduate oversupply and underemployment, meaning that having a degree does not ensure a job anymore. For example, in New South Wales in Australia, there are 47,000 people looking for a job as a teacher, which is almost the same number as that of employed teachers. But who’s job is it to make sure we are not educating too many professionals compared to the amount of jobs available?
There has been a lot of criticism over the mass education of youth. Many people with university degrees find themselves serving coffee after graduation. When graduates are underemployed, we are not putting the full capacity of the employees to use. This does not only affect the income of the underemployed person, but can have further implications in economic growth, productivity and competitiveness. This phenomenon can be linked to the fact that education does not match the needs of the working world or prepare graduates for it.
According to McKinsey’s Education to Employment Report, 70% of educators feel that their students are prepared for the working world, whereas less than 50% of employers and graduates feel the same. It seems like the most difficult thing for many young people is to transition from education to employment.
Going back to the question I presented in the beginning, who’s responsibility is it to match the supply and demand of graduates? In my opinion, we need all stakeholders to take action. Universities should work together with employers to align not only the amounts of educated people for certain sectors, but to prepare young people with the skills needed to be employable and perform in the working world. This needs closer collaboration between employers and educators all around. On the other hand, government policies should support this to ensure that these educated young people are contributing to economic growth. Lastly, when choosing degrees, young people should look into the labor market needs.
When I was applying for university, labor market needs were the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to follow my passions and didn’t think about possible employability issues in the future. I wish at that point someone had educated me about the reality of the working world and the skills needed in the future. Educators should take more responsibility in guiding young people already when they are making the decision about their future studies. Many young people like myself also prefer to learn by doing, so a stronger involvement of employers in higher education would help young people find what they want to do in the future and develop the needed skills.
The world is changing faster than ever before, and it is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that we are not educating young people for jobs that do not exist anymore on their graduation day.3