A Gallup/Lumina Foundation Poll released a few weeks ago is getting attention in the business community. In a survey of 623 business leaders, most said that higher education was important, but where an employee earned a degree, and what the degree was in, were far less important in hiring decisions than basic job skills.
There is a serious disconnect between the suppliers of pre-employment skills (the university systems) and their consumers (business). In another Gallup study, this one of Chief Academic Officers, some 96% were confident or extremely confident that their institutions were doing a good job of preparing their students for success in the workplace. Only 11% of business people in the Lumina poll strongly agreed with that statement.
In 2013, 37% of college graduates under the age of 25 were working in jobs that didn’t require a college education. Most of these were employed in health care or retail. Low wage (less than $29,000 a year) jobs account for 19% of employment, but since 2009 have accounted for 40% of all new jobs.
Multiple surveys of small business owners show that a majority identify “finding qualified candidates” as their biggest HR issue. Clearly, they have looked at the current crop of college graduates and found them wanting. With those in academia apparently oblivious to the problem, there is no sign that the situation will change in the near future.
Small businesses have always been the incubator for job training. They create about 2/3 of the new jobs in the US. Owners long ago accepted that younger employees were more likely than others to eventually be wooed away by corporate mermaids with their siren song of better benefits and career paths.
Today, small businesses are using technology to reduce head count. The positions available are increasingly divided between those requiring real talent from day one and those that can be filled by a warm body. The impact on large companies who have traditionally depended on the small business training ground for basic skills is yet to be fully felt.
If you have warm-body jobs, you are likely filling them with employees who are academically overqualified. If you require appropriate education, job skills or technical training, you are lucky to be filling them at all.