Column: Getting a job takes more than education

Apr. 19, 2013 @ 08:19 PM

It’s time we, as parents, grandparents, educators and community leaders, inform our children about the realities of finding a job in the current and future world economics.

There was a time when someone could graduate with a bachelor’s degree in just about anything and find a job. But as Dr. Harry Davis pointed out on Thursday those days are over. Davis, from the Appalachian State University Walker College of Business, delivered a wake-up call to the Community Leaders Council of the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp.

“Years ago a degree in almost anything, combined with hard work, would usually guarantee a mid-management position,” he said. “But those positions do not exist today.”

I love art, music, history and other liberal arts-type classes. I believe they open us to other experiences and make us more interesting. I still can’t draw beyond stick figures (but I make a mean stick figure), but my art history course was one of the most interesting that I took at Southern Illinois University. My psychology and sociology classes helped me in my management positions, especially in the early years.

I would never discourage someone from taking liberal arts courses, but it needs to complement a major course of study where an individual can find a job, for instance in science, medical or IT engineering.

Too many students are graduating with degrees that are not in demand. They’ve graduated and can’t find a job, or they find a job that has nothing to do with their major and find they are underemployed and underpaid. Many have too much student loan debt and are unable to make their payments. Student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt. The average is $25,000, but we all know young people carrying $50,000, $75,000 and even $100,000 in debt. Many parents have co-signed the loans, and parents over 60 now owe $47 billion in student loans, an increase of $32 billion in six years.

Young people are going to have to put off home ownership for years, and baby boomers are jeopardizing their own retirements.

On the other hand there are many jobs in our country that pay above average and have good benefits packages. They may not be sexy, like a graphic designer (where few jobs exist in the U.S. as many have exported to places like India), but they are important jobs that need to be done. In Caldwell County we have transportation and manufacturing jobs, to name a few. The furniture industry is still the largest employer in the county and offers good pay with attractive benefits.

There are excellent training programs at CCC&TI that will enable individuals to find jobs in a short period of time, with many in transportation, manufacturing, medical and IT.

The conversation needs to start now with young people. It’s unrealistic to think they can borrow $50,000-plus. It’s unrealistic to major in something that does not have a solid future for a job. It’s unrealistic to think it should take five or six years to complete college. Let’s help the next generation make sound decisions for their future and the future of our country.