More than 40 percent of recent U.S. college graduates are unemployed, underemployed or need more training to get on a career track, according to a poll released last year by global management consulting firm Accenture.
The online survey of 1,050 workers who finished school in the previous two years and 1,010 who received their degree in 2013 also found that many graduates, some heavily in debt because of the cost of their education, say they are in jobs that do not require a college degree. In fact, just 53 percent of the graduates found full-time jobs in their field of study.
Based on this data, it's hard to understand why President Obama keeps promoting the benefits of a college education. He recently unveiled a plan to rate colleges by the tuition they charge, and favor those schools that offer lower tuitions and more scholarships with more government aid.
He recently proposed that "colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer money going up."
Tuition is not the problem. The problem is that there are no jobs once a student graduates. Students can't pay back even lower tuitions if they don't have a job.
The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce estimates there will be 47 million job openings in the decade ending in 2018. Nearly half will require only an associate degree.
The solution is pairing jobs with skilled workers who get vocational training or participate in apprenticeship programs.
In an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal, Peter Downs, author of "Schoolhouse Shams: 40 Myths and Misinformation in School Reform," noted that the United States has failed to recognize the advantages of apprenticeship program and lags behind most European countries.
For example, 70 percent of young people aged 15 to 19 in Switzerland are in apprenticeship programs. In Germany, 65 percent are in such programs, and in Austria, it's 55 percent. The result is that the youth unemployment rate is half that of the United States.
Downs notes that in the United States "the number of apprenticeship programs has fallen by one-third in the last decade. With only 330,578 registered apprentices in 2013, the U.S. had less than 40 percent of the number in Britain, a country one-fifth as populous."
Ironically, our founding fathers, who won their independence from Britain, recognized the importance of vocational education and started apprenticeship agreements that set specific requirements for masters to teach apprentices academic as well as vocational skills.
Instead of throwing money after ill-advised stimulus programs, and college tuition support, it's time to invest in occupational programs that result in jobs.
Data suggest that at least 40 percent of students drop out of four-year universities before graduation, and it's even higher for community colleges. We now have the highest college-dropout rate in the industrialized world.
A recent New York Times story asked: "What exactly is a university education for?"
Answering the question in Florida is Gov. Rick Scott, "who has made waves by wanting to shift state financing of public colleges to majors that have the best job prospects. Hello science, technology, engineering and math; goodbye psychology and anthropology."
According to Investopedia, "Globalization and international trade requires countries and their economies to compete with each other. Economically successful countries will hold competitive and comparative advantages over other economies, though a single country rarely specializes in a particular industry.
"This means that a country's economy will be made of various industries that will have different advantages and disadvantages in the global marketplace. The education and training of a country's workers is a major factor in determining just how well the country's economy will do."
The message is clear: we need more trained workers, not more college graduates.
In China, they pushed millions of young people into college, and now most of them are confined to tenements trying to earn enough for rent and to feed themselves. It's not the right course.
We should all be encouraged by the rise in "The New Vocationalism," which is defined as the method used by schools, particularly high schools, to organize their curricula so the students develop skills, both vocational and academic, that will give them the strategic labor market advantages needed to compete for good jobs.
If we are to compete on the global stage and create good-paying American jobs, it's time to rethink our approach to education. The answer is skill training, not more degrees.
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