The Disconnect Between Skills and Jobs

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.

college diplomaIn 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.

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3 Responses to The Disconnect Between Skills and Jobs

  1. Rod Giles says:

    I am also aware that a very large nimber of successful companies are started by people that have no particular education but have a belief in themselves and their abilities and go ahead in the wider marketplace in spite of ” no education” . In fact in my experience I have seen may qualified people totally able to think productively for themselves. I have also seen many untrained and uneducated personal really achive if given the right support and oportunity. I therefor do not believe there is a hard and fast rule but a need to really have a very good look at what is wanted and expected and chose the right cloth for the right suit and not just stick to one size fits all.
    Further to this is that I think that the young are sold the idea that a education is going to give them the right to a job of their wish and a good education will gaurentee a salary to suit. However there are not enough positions available any longer as the world become increasingly more crowded with quailfied graduates , less jobs and more automation.
    Given this situation the responsibilty of choosing the right person it is becoming more clouded.

  2. Mike Havel says:

    It sure would be a step in the right direction, if the Public Colleges would direct our tax payers $$ into degrees programs for which there are jobs, and reduce the $$ in degrees programs for which there are few jobs. Just like a business they should try to created an inventory of graduates that can be sold, make a good living, pay taxes, and donate back to their college. If someone wants to study in field in which their are few jobs, let then go to a private college. We do not need to be using our tax $$$ educating citizens into a field which there are no jobs.

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