How can the unemployment rate float around 6% while so many jobs in the U.S. go unfilled? Doesn’t this defy the tried-and-true law of supply and demand? More and more young adults that are entering the workforce with college degrees – expensive college degrees – are struggling to find jobs. In fact, there is now more student loan debt than credit card debt in the U.S.! We are conditioned to believe that earning a college degree equals higher earnings over one’s lifetime. What’s going on here?
As eloquently stated in a recent Huffington Post article, “The stigma surrounding vocational education has been growing for decades. These programs have ostensibly become the option for those who can't make it academically… As a result, the country is facing a widening "skills gap" between those entering the workforce and the technical jobs that companies need to fill” (Yashchin, 2013).
Having worked for several years in college Career Services departments, the old catch 22 of “You need experience to get a job” and “I can’t get experience without a job” was never more prevalent than in the software development arena. Employers want someone with a college degree, because the degree quasi-guarantees critical thinking skills, among other desired traits, but they also want people who can meet their business needs immediately – employees who are specifically trained in the emerging technologies they use. So how do we accomplish this?
Removing the stigma of vocational training would be a major paradigm shift in our society – not an easy feat! However, if we can come to terms with the fact that formal education and vocational training don’t have to be mutually exclusive, we can begin to close the gap. The responsibility to achieve this sits on everyone’s shoulders – parents, teachers, government and businesses. As a society, we must invest in the vocational training that our existing and future workforce needs.