Skip to comments.College grads learning good jobs hard to find now (employers note "skill gap")
Posted on 07/01/2012 3:24:51 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
Andi Meuth earned a history degree from Texas A&M in May and has applied for 150 jobs, so far with no luck.
Jon Ancira graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology last year, but can't find work that uses his degree. After six months of searching, the 26-year-old did finally land a job at a bank.
Alex Ricard, 21, is grateful to be using his electronic media degree from Texas State at a social media startup company, but it's an unpaid internship.
He says he's sent out three to five resumes a week for the past two months, with almost no response from prospective employers. When he does hear back, he says, it's most often that he doesn't have enough experience.
While the particulars for each graduate are different, the overarching narrative has become familiar.
Up to half of all recent college grads are jobless or underemployed, doing low-wage work outside their chosen fields, according to a widely reported analysis this spring by the Associated Press.
These young women and men still have high expectations as do their parents that a college degree will pay off, despite rising tuition and the resulting debt.
But increasingly, say economists and workforce experts, there is a mismatch in today's job market between graduates' skills and those needed in the fastest-growing career fields.
The recession changed the economy permanently, economists say. In this largely jobless recovery, millions of mid- and entry-level positions are gone, the work now automated.
Many of those with college degrees who do find jobs can expect lower salaries and reduced earning potential over their working lives. Rising debt the average graduate carries about $25,000 in loans can push the often-necessary advanced degree out of reach.
Locally, the unemployment rate among 20- to 24-year-olds has been about twice as high as the overall rate.
Psych degree overload
Ricard still holds out hope that his degree will eventually lead to a job, given the increased importance of social media and digital technology, but he has his limits: August.
If I haven't found something by then, he said, even though I'd like to think my days of fast-food jobs are behind me, it becomes less about the job I want and more about the job I need at that point.
Not all graduates face such dire straits. Those with in-demand degrees in areas such as engineering, information technology and nursing enjoy much brighter job prospects.
Kevin Davis, who earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin, had three job offers before he graduated in May. He took a job with Toshiba in Houston.
John Hollman will graduate from Austin Community College in December with a two-year associate degree in nursing. The San Antonio native already has two job offers, one from his current employer of nine years, Texas Oncology.
But employers and workforce agencies say the labor market is suffering from a jobs-skills mismatch.
Psychology, for example, is the third-most-popular four-year degree in Texas and one of the fastest growing, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, a public agency that works to bring people and jobs together.
Problem is, there's almost no demand at that level, said Eva Esquivel, communications manager with the agency.
More than 5,000 people graduated from Texas colleges and universities with bachelor's degrees in psychology in 2010, she said, to compete for four job openings in the field, with an annual salary of $22,000.
That's not even enough to pay student loans back, Esquivel said. Most psychology jobs require a higher-level degree and there still aren't many positions available.
Ancira, who saw some of his psychology research published while studying at Northwest Vista, one of the Alamo Colleges, said he found fewer research opportunities after transferring to UT.
Disenchanted, he looked into changing majors or getting an advanced degree, but the burden of $36,000 in student loans put him off.
Meuth, who lives in San Antonio, said she knew the job market for history majors without a master's degree or teaching certification was limited but decided to go for a major she was passionate about, even in a slumping economy. She wants to work in a museum eventually, which requires a master's, but is putting it off for now to avoid taking out any loans.
Conversely, Texas colleges graduated far fewer engineers than psychology majors in 2010 just 271 petroleum engineers, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, and demand far outstrips supply, especially as the Eagle Ford Shale continues to boom.
Starting pay for petroleum engineers averages $85,000, Esquivel said. For the 405 chemical engineers who graduated in 2010, it's about $60,000.
Skills in short supply
Chris Nielsen, president and CEO of Toyota Motor Manufacturing in San Antonio, said the company has struggled to fill engineering positions and points to the healthy starting salary as proof of the competitive nature of the field.
But perhaps more crucially, Nielsen said that in the six years the company has been building trucks in San Antonio, it's never been able to fill all its trade positions, or what it calls skilled job positions.
Those include maintaining assembly-line robots, which Nielson said requires training in programming, hydraulics and pneumatics.
These are good, career-track positions, he said, many that pay in the $60,000 range.
Toyota is hardly alone.
Manufacturers surveyed in the latest Skills Gap report from the Manufacturing Institute, an affiliate of the National Association of Manufacturers, reported that roughly 5 percent of current jobs go unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates. That's as many as 600,000 unfilled jobs machinists, operators, craft workers, distributors, technicians and more that manufacturers say hamper their ability to expand operations, drive innovation and improve productivity.
Those surveyed said the national education curriculum is not producing workers with the basic skills they need, and the trend is not likely to improve in the near term.
Tom Pauken, appointed to the Texas Workforce Commission by Gov. Rick Perry in 2008, has become a passionate advocate for greater vocational and technical training.
He laments what he calls a one size fits all approach to higher education, which assumes that everyone needs a four-year degree.
Those who do are often saddled with enormous debt and still can't find good jobs, he said. Meanwhile, there is a shortfall of qualified applicants for those with skills training as welders, electricians, pipe fitters and machinists.
Entry-level salaries for those jobs in the San Antonio area begin in the low- to-mid-$20,000 range, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo, and rise to the upper $40,000s at the expert level.
In San Antonio, Alamo Colleges runs Alamo Academies, which aims to train high school juniors and seniors for skilled employment in fast-growing local industries, including aerospace, information technology and security, manufacturing and the health professions.
The academies, which are a partnership among the community college district, local industry and workforce agencies, also provide college credits, and expose students to occupations that require a college education. Students stay in their high schools, take about half their classes at the academy and participate in a paid internship in their chosen field.
After high school, graduates earn an average starting pay of more than $30,000 and will have earned a couple dozen college credits.
I tell students they need to do career planning even before education planning, said Esquivel, who travels a 12-county region talking to high school students about where job growth will occur in the coming years. I wish more students would take advantage of the information her agency has to offer.
Luisa Ramirez, the on-campus recruiting coordinator at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said she's seen an increase in freshmen who come to the career center seeking advice, rather than waiting until they're seniors.
They've seen their parents go through the recession, she said, So they're more aware.
Ancira said many recent graduates might be in for a rude awakening.
You go to school thinking you're going to graduate and there's going to be a job in an office waiting for you, he said, but a few years into it, you realize that's not really going to happen.
History degree???? What the HELL would they be good for in the workplace?? NOTHING but be Mr. KnowitAll.
“Meuth, who lives in San Antonio, said she knew the job market for history majors without a master’s degree or teaching certification was limited but decided to go for a major she was passionate about, even in a slumping economy. She wants to work in a museum eventually, which requires a master’s, but is putting it off for now to avoid taking out any loans.”
Again, we see so many seeking the least common denominator (easy path) as a means to gain. Notice that the engineering grads have no issue finding a job?
Andi Meuth displays her class ring from Texas A&M.....Photo: San Antonio Express-News / SA
Let’s emphasize this to kids once again....engineering of any type, science-related degrees, and medical degrees...will be professions that always have open doors. You might have to agree to move a state away or such....but these folks never have problems.
A degree in women’s studies? A degree in gourmet science? A degree in French literature? Well....you’d best hope that Subway has a manager opening somewhere and just take what you can get in times like this.
History majors are often fairly smart.
Now finding a job that ‘uses’ an undergraduate psychology degree, on the other hand...
And NASA has become a “green” agency.
Obama and Holdren have been VERY busy cutting America down to size.
The people I would hire the ones with unique skills needed for if and when Americans have to fight I will already have a crew.
I hire people, I pay heed to such things as shortwave operators, military backgrounds, gunsmithing and certain computer skills.
I have no place for the socialistic tripe fed wussies that openly admire socialism. I can tell on a job application to a good degree where a person stands.
Do any of these young twits do any research at all into "where the jobs are" before settling on a career choice? Psychology?? History?? Basket-weaving??
No, and I blame the stupid PARENTS even more!!
Obtaining a degree that there would be some demand for (and an $85k starting salary) might require some work and spending a few weekends in the lab and library, and not spending weekends with drugs, alcohol and using those "free" contraceptives from Obama.
Proof positive that a college education can't make anyone use common sense.
Psych is totally worthless without a Master’s. With an M.A you could be a therapist.
She needs to find work as a journalist! Hell, it took TWO of them just to write this article. (Sending 3 to 5 resumes a week? That’s it? Seriously? Wow....)
I worked at 10 years old cutting grass and saved 600.00 and I worked and saved for the next 40 plus years
Now I feel like a college grad now I should have spent every dime I made and more and they are going raised my "unearned income" at a higher rate? I think I remember the Bahama's having automatic citizenship if you buy a home there when Nicole Smith died.
They speak English and island life isn't that bad.
The electronic media major should not be having problems, social media coordinator and manager positions are fairly plentiful here in NC, and we were hit hard and still have higher unemployment than TX. Of course, he should have been taking those unpaid internships during summers while still in school, that is if he couldn’t find even a menial paid position with an employer in his field to gain some exposure and make valuable contacts, referrals and at least a few genuine references. It doesn’t sound as if he did this. Is there no longer such a thing as a placement office? All this was common practice, at least up to my college years.
The psych major needs to be interviewing with HR departments and security firms, possibly police forces, anywhere the ability to assess and screen applicants or individuals granted access would be needed. There is a level of intuition to this, however, and no experience will again rise up and bite a job hunter, just as in the previous example. His school failed him if he wasn’t counseled to pursue every avenue of exposure in his chosen profession prior to graduation.
The history major, well, I hope her passion translates into working her butt off in order to find something other than a tour guide position at an historic attraction. There is interest in history as far as salable products, apparel, collectibles, even peculiar things like jigsaw puzzles (thinking of the local Heritage Puzzle Co., a division of Heritage Publishing, very nice stuff if you’re into historic lighthouses and such), so over time she could build her way into a viable business but would need to acquire a great deal of other knowledge in order to capitalize upon a love and knowledge of history. The university that popped her out naive and unprepared is negligent. It’s not as if the job market hasn’t been pretty bad for four years going on five or anything.
These educrats take much for granted and have failed all three of these recent grads, imho.
“Now finding a job that uses an undergraduate psychology degree, on the other hand...”
If someone with a psychology degree doesn’t know what they are going to do with it, they wasted 4 years. My kid is a freshman majoring in psychology and she altrady started her business plan for when she graduates.
That’s the difference between conservatives and liberals. Libs are waiting to be handed a job. Conservatives create a job.
Degrees should have different values monetarily. I cant understand why someone would waste so much money on a history degree. I’m on a plan to get my masters in accounting and my CPA so hopefully I will be straight