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Jobs in a Vacuum

August 11, 2011

Was listening to American Public Media’s Marketplace podcast yesterday and they had an interesting interview with will.i.am. I guess he bought out some TV time on ABC so he could show students in the FIRST robotics program. Those of us who read STEM blogs and those of us in engineering who care about educational programs are probably already familiar with this. But he’s right that otherwise if it wasn’t on TV and being fronted by a pop star it wouldn’t get a lot of attention. He says we need more geniuses because "geniuses are recession proof."

Just sort of reminds me of the words of people who say now that the "debt crisis" is over we can "focus on jobs" again. Unfortunately, lowering taxes and cutting government spending doesn’t seem to be creating jobs. And a stimulus program is probably not politically feasible no matter the consequences. Just like politicians think if we create a low tax low regulatory environment jobs will just appear out of thin air, the musician seems to think that if we get a bunch of people into STEM disciplines they will create jobs and create products. I thought one of the commenters on the marketplace segment had it right, that we need to employ the grown-up geniuses first. I worry with all this focus on STEM recruitment for the current generation that we’re going to face the same problem my generation did.

When me and my fellow classmates all graduated with our liberal arts degrees jobs were nowhere to be found. And this was largely before the recession. When we went into school we were told a college degree was the key to a great career. I know many people in the blogosphere who went on to masters and PhD programs might agree that they had been duped into thinking more education would lead to job security and a fulfilling occupation. But a college degree is no longer the key to a good job. And I worry that if we keep pushing this STEM education agenda the next group of graduates will all get degrees in science, engineering and technology and discover the jobs aren’t there for them either. And they’ll blame those who told them now that these things were "recession proof" and would provide a comfortable middle class lifestyle.

We’re focusing on the wrong side of this equation. We can’t expect to educate and deregulate our way to jobs. You can’t create jobs in a vacuum.

(Photo via minxjl on Flickr)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 11, 2011 4:27 pm

    Yeah, I have a PhD. Oh joy. I turned down a postdoc at primo leafy school because I can’t pay off my stu loans or pay my rent on the fancy pants reputation of the employer, and the salary was so laughable I really did think it was a joke. UPS delivery dudes make more. That was my first shock as to what my PhizzleDizzle was worth. Bubkus.

    I’m laying out options for my stus to get a trade degree. Yo, new grads who are unemployed or those who are still in school: get a degree that leads DIRECTLY into a job. Don’t fuck around with basketweaving classes. They aren’t worth the credit that you will be paying off on your loans years from now. Try to wrangle transfer credits for the bachelor’s work if already graduated, and if in school still, do the necessary internships that LEAD SOMEWHERE. Go to the jobs websites and look at the jobs with THOUSANDS of openings all over the country. Those are in high demand. You might need certification or certain coursework, DO IT. 2 years is enough to get trained and re-degreed. These next 10 years are gonna make sausages of anyone without skills in high demand areas (everything from IT, health care, pharm, dental asst, med records, finance). For example, there’s 100,000 jobs posted on simplyhired for dental assistant. The boomers are falling apart at the seams, they’ll be in every hospital, dental office, medical clinic for the next 30 years, so there’s job security in their declining health and increasing medical bills/living expenses. The good times are oooooovvvveeeeerrrrr.

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