Under employeed OR over educated?

by Steve Wyckoff on February 23, 2010

I received an interesting phone call the other day from a consultant who is working with one of the largest cities in Kansas in  determining their workforce needs and attempting to determine why there is a lack of skilled labor available. I had been referred to her by an area superintendent that was aware of my involvement with  career and technical education, career planning, and the Kansas Career Pipeline.

She asked if I would share my opinions with her regarding the shortage of skilled workers. And, as you know if you’ve read my blog before, I have no shortage of opinions. And besides I was in the middle of a three-hour drive and I welcomed the distraction. So we had a very interesting and engaging conversation.

We talked about the fact that our schools, regardless of their mission statement, really don’t intend to prepare kids to be productive members of society in the 21st century. Their focus is much more on college preparation than real-world preparation.

She did remind me of a piece of data I found last week. Four out of 10 college students major in Social Sciences (ex. History and Political Science) Psychology, Communication, or English. Popular careers of these majors include retail store manager, customer service representative, and administrative assistant. These individuals are an example of being overeducated but not underemployed. They simply don’t have the skills necessary to compete for other jobs in the 21st century. they lack the technical skills necessary for high wage jobs, and instead opt for low-wage, low skill, service jobs.

They are highly educated but lack the necessary skills. In our society today that seems to be preferable to individuals who have the necessary skills but lack a liberal education. Perhaps it’s time that we started analyzed this gap to decide what’s most important to us as a society. Then maybe our schools will work to help eliminate the skills gap that we are currently experiencing. –  Steve Wyckoff

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