In “Frayed Prospects, Despite a Degree” journalist Shaila Dewan takes the mainstream media’s sob-story around employment (and unemployment) to the front pages of the New York Times.
Culprits aren’t named too directly – recent graduate’s woes are the result of giant economic and societal forces no one can control. According to Dewan, employers won’t hire people who are a couple of years out of college as “entry-level,” leaving 2010 and 2011 graduates in a rough purgatory. Employers are apparently hiring from their internship programs, making it harder for (again) those who have already graduated. Not that there is any data/research to support this claim.
Before I move to fact-based rebuttals of Ms. Dewan’s fear-based headline grabbing, I would suggest that employment prospects are impacted by skills, including information literacy and critical thinking. Any students reading the NYTs will be bringing down their own game: claims without any statistical backup (“companies have been increasingly hiring from their own pool of interns”) followed up by a story about ONE company. Does this info prove a point? Dewan would receive a D+ (generous) in an 11th grade writing course. Or she could get a gig on one of the more shrill MSNBC no-name shows that run during the day (while her lack of logic would fit Fox News, her politics will not).I’ve been tracking this weak, unAmerican, passive approach to the future since at least the Presidential debates last year.
Here’s the first question from the second debate between Obama and Romney. A guy named Jeremy, who has a lot in common with the people Ms. Dewan was able to find for her article, asked:
Mr. President, Governor Romney, as a 20-year-old college student, all I hear from professors, neighbors and others is that when I graduate, I will have little chance to get employment. What can you say to reassure me, but more importantly my parents, that I will be able to sufficiently support myself after I graduate?
Imagine Aaron Sorkin writing a truer, better answer to this question – from either candidate:
Jeremy, thank you for your question. But let me get a little more information while I add some context to your question. We are in a new economy. The jobs that will matter in your long, successful career largely don’t exist right now. So I’m curious: what are you studying? What are the professors teaching who tell you that you have ‘little chance to get employment?’
Instead of challenging Jeremy’s expectation that other people help him, both candidates babbled on about Pell Grants etc.
If you really care about employability there is an easy answer – it’s just one that few Americans seem to want to hear. What would Dewan have discovered if she talked to Computer Science graduates from 2010, 2011 etc? SoCal has 9 jobs for every candidate in these fields.
Are we saying that Americans just aren’t capable of these gigs? Like, poor soft-headed Jeremy from the debate is just too stupid to work at a software company and therefore has to study ‘Communications’ or ‘Marketing’?
It’s the equivalent of writing story after story, in the 1940s and ’50s, about tough times in rural, agricultural America. In other words, ignoring the economic boom in the cities and the great jobs available to able-bodied workers.
Except back then, at least according to conventional wisdom and seemingly the empirical results, Americans just got on with it. They uprooted their families, moved, and learned how to operate a milling machine. Maybe they missed the farm. Maybe they were glad to have some serious money for the first time. Learning from that tumultuous time, and the fall-out (Detroit, swaths of Philadelphia and other industrial cities that are still filled with bombed out factories and the unemployed still waiting for ‘good’ jobs to come back), would be useful. Complaining about the lack of job for marketing majors is ridiculous.
At least Ms. Dewan didn’t get into the college debt issue. God only knows what kind of debt Dewan’s Mr. Wells has incurred. We do know that,
Mr. Wells said his skills had already become outdated. New graduates in his major are required to learn technological skills that he missed out on.
Maybe Mr. Wells should check out CodeAcademy and skip the gym a few days a week. Regardless, he seems like an outlier. Philadelphia is booming, relatively speaking, and the young people seem to be out doing what young people do – spending money, going to restaurants etc.. I challenge Ms. Dewan to start profiling successful 25-30 year olds (no, not Internet Billionaires) who have found meaningful work with a steady paycheck. Maybe even some who don’t live in their parent’s basement. I have 3 of them on my team – happy to make an introduction.