This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

November 3, 2004

The Great Mismatch

Higher education has become more accessible to students in developed countries around the world. A university degree has gained status as a means of entry into more highly regarded careers. Families at all socioeconomic levels now strongly encourage their youth to attend 4-year colleges and universities, as well as to pursue graduate degrees. In many cases, the parents sacrifice so their children can attain levels of education beyond what had been achieved in the family before.

As a result, society is pushing many students into higher education programs that are not appropriate for them. Often students can not handle the academic workload or they become disenchanted with career opportunities that will be available once the desired degree is earned. Many young people are pushed into educational programs that are not suited to their talents or interests, because the students or their families seek the status and/or income that is believed to come with certain types of jobs.

The risk is that, while large numbers of students concentrate on university degrees and positions they expect to enjoy when they graduate, jobs that require less education are vacant. Certainly, well-educated people are needed---and will be in the years ahead, but young people looking for rewarding careers should not overlook jobs that can be performed with a couple of years of post-high school education and/or some skills training.

Opportunities for technicians will be abundant in the future. Associates degrees from community and technical colleges will prepare people for fulfilling employment that will pay, in many cases, at least as well as a wide range of jobs available to university graduates. Demand will be higher for skilled workers because of the sheer numbers of jobs being so much greater than the available labor force to fill them. Supply and demand may actually drive up levels of compensation to reach closer to parity with careers that require 4-year degrees or more.

When there is an oversupply of a resource, relative to its demand, those resources (college graduates, in this case) will move toward the jobs (skilled labor), whether or not a degree is required.

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