In a recent Bloomberg article, Ohio University economist Richard Vedder wrote about the plethora of college degrees being churned out annually compared to the supply of jobs that historically not required a degree. Dr. Vedder is an expert in higher education and has long bemoaned the “college at all costs” policy used to promote federal student aid. As he rightly points out, much of the expected job growth over the next 10 years will be driven by jobs that do not require a four-year degree.
I noticed this trend well over a year ago, as I began hearing anecdotal evidence about the coming shortage of skilled trade workers, such as plumbers and pipefitters. I also experienced firsthand how difficult it was to find a master carpenter to do some much needed work for me. In the NCPA publication, “The Job Market: Is College Overrated?”, I note that many of the fastest-growing jobs require only vocational or apprenticeship training. Of those that do require degrees, many students are obtaining degrees in the wrong fields.
Unfortunately, a large part of this jobs mismatch is due to government policies that idealize college with the emphasis that every high school student should attend, whether they are successful or not. As a result, we have many graduates that have amazing degrees in fields where there is little to no employment demand, and these graduates, laden with debt, end up taking jobs that historically never required a degree. For jobs that require trade skills, such as carpenters and electricians, there seems to be stigma associated with “blue collar” work. It is a shame since some of the greatest job growth will be in these types of fields.
Unfortunately, federal involvement in the education and skills market has resulted in a new class of in-debt graduates looking to match their four-plus years of hard work with the job of their dreams – a job that may never come to fruition.