Archive for ‘jobs after college’

October 20, 2014

You probably need a college degree to get hired as a secretary.

by Grace

Only college graduates need apply for secretarial jobs.

More than half of employers now require a college credential for all jobs, and nearly one-third now hire college graduates for jobs that previously went to high-school graduates, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 hiring managers. Labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies recently found that 65% of postings for executive secretaries and assistants call for bachelor’s degrees, but just 19% of current secretaries have such credentials.

I recently heard about a long-time secretary who had been laid off and could not find another job because she did not have a college degree.

But a degree doesn’t necessarily make a candidate more qualified, it’s often just a way to screen applicants.

Few hiring managers say that college graduates are more qualified than nongrads for jobs in retail and warehouses, but as long as the job market is tight, employers say they can afford to be picky.

No wonder “parents push their kids to go to college”.

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Melissa Korn, “A Bit of College Can Be Worse Than None at All”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2014.

October 15, 2014

Before starting college, consider your chances of actually getting a degree

by Grace

20141013.COCNotGraduatingCollege1

 

A dual penalty for dropping out of college

Those students may find themselves doubly damned: cut out of consideration for professional-track jobs, and starting their careers years behind their peers who entered the workforce with just high-school diplomas. Many have student loans to boot.

October 14, 2014

It looks like ‘the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking’

by Grace

The surplus of lawyers looking for jobs has been apparent for several years now, “and the number of jobs is apt to shrink further as technology sinks its teeth into legal work”.

In his recent City Journal article Machines v. Lawyers, Northwestern Law School professor John O. McGinnis explained why the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking. “Law is, in effect, an information technology – a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third….”

Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, law was a growth industry and a great many people (especially students who had taken “soft” majors in college) figured that earning a JD was an attractive option. Naturally, law schools expanded to accommodate the throngs of degree seekers, who were aided by federal student loan programs. Going to law school both delayed the need to start repaying undergraduate loans and appeared to be the pathway into a bright and lucrative career.

That’s not true anymore.

McGinnis gives details on how technology is disrupting the legal profession.

Discovering information, finding precedents, drafting documents and briefs, and predicting the outcomes of lawsuits—these tasks encompass the bulk of legal practice. The rise of machine intelligence will therefore disrupt and transform the legal profession.

Fewer lawyers will be needed, but superstar lawyers will prosper.

A relatively small number of very talented lawyers will benefit from the coming changes. These superstars will prosper by using the new technology to extend their reach and influence. For instance, the best lawyers will need fewer associates; they can use computers to enhance the value that they offer their clients. Already, the ratio of associates to partners in big law firms appears to be declining. In complex cases, lawyers will continue to add value to machine intelligence through uniquely human judgment. Even now, when computers regularly beat the best chess grandmaster, a good chess player and a good computer combined can often beat the best computers. Thus, for important cases and transactions, good lawyers will still add substantial value, even if computers do more of the work.

As McGinnis noted, journalism is another profession severely impacted by technology, possibly pointing to a future where computers will be handling many of today’s white-collar jobs.

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George Leef, “The Canary in the Law School Coal Mine?”, Minding The Campus, October 9, 2014.

John, O. McGinnis, “Machines v. Lawyers”, City Journal, Spring 2014.

October 8, 2014

The problem of student loans that don’t deliver on jobs

by Grace

Kevin Carey in the New York Times writes about how vocational training programs over-promise and under-deliver on their promise to train students for well-paying jobs.  He highlights the problems with medical assistant training programs.

Many people who graduate from such programs struggle to find work. Those who do find work often make little money — too little to repay their debts from the program. Despite the happy poster images, the market for medical-assistant education is actually an allegory for the problems in the parts of higher education that tend to attract low-income and middle-class students: little regulation and uneven — often mediocre — results. The same problems afflict many community colleges, lower-tier four-year colleges and training programs in fields like office management and culinary arts.

According to the Department of Labor, the median annual salary for medical assistants in 2011 was $29,100. Yet most recent graduates of medical-assistant training programs earn much less, which suggests the programs are not reliable routes to good jobs as assistants. Among the 100,000 students who earned a medical-assistant certificate in 2008 or 2009, roughly 94 percent attended a program where graduates typically earned less than $20,000 in 2011, the data show. More than 50 percent attended a program where typical graduates earned less than someone working full time at the federal minimum wage would — $15,080. That can only mean many were not working full-time in any job.

Clearly the return on investment is painfully insufficient for many trained medical assistants, as well as for many other graduates of our faltering higher education system.  Carey attributes the problem to false advertising, noting that “it’s nearly impossible to find an employer who explicitly requires a certificate”.  He calls for increased regulation as the solution.

The medical-assistant education market is inefficient because the American higher education system is largely unregulated. Every year, the federal government gives students $150 billion in grants and subsidized loans to attend any program offered by any accredited college. The assumption is that the free market will take care of the rest. But college is what economists call an “experiential good” — something you can’t entirely understand until after you purchase and experience it, at which point it may be too late.

Inadequate loan underwriting creates “distortions and useless degrees”.

I actually agree with Carey’s general point that new regulations are needed to curb abuses arising from the haphazard distribution of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds with very little accountability.  But my take on the problem is closer to how this highly-ranked comment frames the problem, with a need for the federal government to do a better underwriting loans.

It is amazing how this article and most others on the the subject never mention the elephant in the room.

It is the Federal Government’s policy to dump money, in the form of grants or loans and loan guarantees, for virtually any degree, any college, to anyone, that creates these distortions and useless degrees.

Do you think any private bank without the Federal Student Loan guarantees and laws would ever lend $18K in unsecured loans to 18 year olds with no assets and no income attending these programs?

Do you think many parents or family would be writing actual checks of $18K for people to attend without making sure they lead to actual jobs?

Of course not. The Federal Government policies inflate the cost of higher education and preserves the existence of thousands of non-viable programs of higher education.

Until we address that, these distorted results will continue to be with us.

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Kevin Carey, “When Higher Education Doesn’t Deliver on Its Promise”, New York Times, Oct. 4, 2014.

September 26, 2014

Women place greater importance on steady employment when seeking a spouse

by Grace

Almost twice as many women as men consider it “very important” that their future spouse have a “steady job”.

… Never-married women place a great deal of importance on finding someone who has a steady job—fully 78% say this would be very important to them in choosing a spouse or partner. For never-married men, someone who shares their ideas about raising children is more important in choosing a spouse than someone who has a steady job.

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Could it be that women still think they’d like to stop working when they have children?  Yes.  One recent survey found that 84% of working women want to stay home to raise their children.

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Wendy Wang and Kim Parker, “Record Share of Americans Have Never Married”, Pew Social Trends, September 24, 2014.

September 24, 2014

Negative consequences of believing the STEM shortage myth

by Grace

In his book Falling Behind: Boom, Bust & the Global Race for Scientific Talent, author Michael Teitelbaum challenges the commonly held belief that the United States suffers from a shortage of STEM workers.

The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce….

A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more. Were there to be a genuine shortage at present, there would be evidence of employers raising wage offers to attract the scientists and engineers they want. But the evidence points in the other direction: Most studies report that real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.

Although some STEM fields are booming and employers find it difficult to fill professional positions, by no means is that true across the board.

Teitelbaum lists five episodes of STEM ‘“alarm/boom/bust” cycles since World War II’ where in all cases government policies intended to address false claims of shortages only exacerbated the problem.

… Each lasted about 10 to 15 years, and was initiated by alarms of “shortages,” followed by policies to increase the supply of scientists and engineers. Unfortunately most were followed by painful busts—mass layoffs, hiring freezes, and funding cuts that inflicted severe damage to careers of both mature professionals and the booming numbers of emerging graduates, while also discouraging new entrants to these fields.

The current administration has fallen into the same trap, pushing for more STEM graduates who may actually find jobs in short supply.  This year New York began allocating taxpayer funds to encourage college students to pursue STEM majors.

Ignoring “science-based evidence” produces “large unintended costs”.

Ironically the vigorous claims of shortages concern occupations in science and engineering, yet manage to ignore or reject most of the science-based evidence on the subject. The repeated past cycles of “alarm/boom/bust” have misallocated public and private resources by periodically expanding higher education in science and engineering beyond levels for which there were attractive career opportunities. In so doing they produced large unintended costs for those talented students who devoted many years of advanced education to prepare for careers that turned out to be unattractive by the time they graduated, or who later experienced massive layoffs in mid-career with few prospects to be rehired.

George Leef is another critic of these government interventions.

… Strong business and educational groups lobby for nice-sounding policies that benefit themselves, frequently employing dubious arguments and misleading claims. The costs of the resulting pro-STEM policies are dispersed among the public, and fall particularly hard on the unfortunate individuals who invest a lot of money and years of their lives in pursuit of credentials that are apt to become almost worthless.

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Michael S. Teitelbaum, “The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage”, The Atlantic, March 19 2014.

George Leef, “True Or False: America Desperately Needs More STEM Workers”, Forbes, June 6, 2014.

September 10, 2014

The jobless recovery in one chart

by Grace

An illustration of our jobless recovery from economics professor Mark J. Perry

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Bottom Line: The US has been producing new record-high levels of GDP in almost every quarter since Q3 2011, and we are now producing 7.65% (and $1.14 trillion) more real GDP today than in late 2007. But we are producing that record-setting level of real output with a quarter-million fewer workers than in 2007. One explanation for America’s record-high output with 227,000 fewer workers is that the Great Recession facilitated what might be one of the greatest expansions of worker productivity in US history. The fact that we’ve been able to greatly expand national output with fewer inputs (workers) represents a huge increase in economic efficiency, but has also left us with a lingering “jobless recovery” and an economy that is struggling to create new, post-recession employment opportunities for millions of Americans.

Labor force participation remains low.

Perry explains that he is using the “more comprehensive measure of total civilian employment” instead of the total payroll number, which recently climbed up to pre-recession levels  However, his bigger point is supported by the troubling increase in the working age population during that time.

As good as that might sound, surpassing the previous high-water mark in terms of payroll employment is cold comfort for recent graduates and other new entrants into the work force, as well as for the legions of Americans who lost their jobs in the Great Recession. While payrolls may be back to where they were before the downturn, the working age population has risen by roughly 15 million over the same period.

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Mark J. Perry, “The current state of the US economy in one chart”, Carpe Diem, September 5, 2014.

September 4, 2014

Women value high grades over high salaries

by Grace

Female college students seem to value good grades over high salaries.  This premise lead Catherine Rampell to advise women to “embrace the B’s in college to make more later”.

A message to the nation’s women: Stop trying to be straight-A students.

No, not because you might intimidate easily emasculated future husbands. Because, by focusing so much on grades, you might be limiting your earning and learning potential.

The college majors that tend to lead to the most profitable professions are also the stingiest about awarding A’s. Science departments grade, on a four-point scale, an average of 0.4 points lower than humanities departments, according to a 2010 analysis of national grading data by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy. And two new research studies suggest that women might be abandoning these lucrative disciplines precisely because they’re terrified of getting B’s.

Slipping grades seem to discourage women from pursuing their chosen careers while men were not similarly deterred.

Claudia Goldin, an economics professor at Harvard, has been examining why so few women major in her field. The majority of new college grads are female, yet women receive only 29 percent of bachelor’s degrees in economics each year.

Goldin looked at how grades awarded in an introductory economics class affected the chance that a student would ultimately major in the subject. She found that the likelihood a woman would major in economics dropped steadily as her grade fell: Women who received a B in Econ 101, for example, were about half as likely as women who received A’s to stick with the discipline. The same discouragement gradient didn’t exist for men. Of Econ 101 students, men who received A’s were about equally as likely as men who received B’s to concentrate in the dismal science.

Another research project, led by Peter Arcidiacono at Duke University, is finding similar trends in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Other research confirms that perfectionism holds women back in the workplace.

… The perils of feminine self-doubt — and how they impact women’s professional aspirations — are the subject of a new book, The Confidence Code, by journalists (and recovering self-doubters) Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

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Catherine Rampell, “Women should embrace the B’s in college to make more later”, Washington Post, March 10, 2014

Jessica Bennett, “It’s Not You, It’s Science: How Perfectionism Holds Women Back”, Time, April 22, 2014.

September 3, 2014

Michigan governor celebrated Labor Day accompanied by a robot

by Grace

Do robots celebrate Labor Day?

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in the Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge and they were joined by one robot.

Gov. Rick Snyder led the annual trek Monday across the 5-mile-long bridge linking Michigan’s two peninsulas. He walked with a robot constructed for the occasion by the FIRST robotics team from Macomb International Academy in the town of Armada.

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Governor Snyder signed Michigan’s right to work law earlier this year, leading this comment by the Daily Kos:

Maybe after right-to-work he couldn’t find any real people to walk with.

The question of how robots will affect job growth remains unsettled.

… Optimists say that more robots will lead to greater productivity and economic growth, while pessimists complain that huge swaths of the labor force will see their employment options automated out of existence.

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August 26, 2014

‘The intern has become the new entry-level hire’

by Grace

Because of technology, many entry-level jobs require more advanced skills.  This means that internships, either unpaid or low-paid, have sometimes become the new entry-level jobs.

Companies bruised by the recession have stayed lean by automating and outsourcing core functions while slashing training budgets and payrolls. But in an effort to cut costs, some companies also have cut entry-level jobs that serve as a crucial first step on the path to a professional career. And others have made the responsibilities for first-timers more sophisticated, raising the bar for new graduates, who are expected to arrive job-ready from day one.

Here’s how some entry-level accounting jobs now require sophisticated skills.

Four years ago, the Boston-based bank began an overhaul of its technology systems to cut costs and streamline operations. Now, as the project nears its end, the company is assessing how to employ fund accountants when some of their main assignments—such as calculating funds’ net asset values—have been automated, said Executive Vice President Kathy Horgan, who oversees talent management.

The job titles are the same, but the responsibilities have shifted significantly from a few years ago. Instead of memorizing 15 or 20 steps in a calculation process, fund accountants at the bank now must be able to identify anomalies, help resolve software glitches and figure out which other teams they should work with. In some cases, they must also call clients directly, Ms. Horgan said, putting a new premium on people skills.

At the same time that entry jobs are becoming more demanding, many employers are reducing their training budgets.

For example, training programs for sales jobs at major corporations regularly lasted two years in the 2000s, teaching the ins and outs of the products they were selling and explaining market trends for distributors and end users. Now, new hires would be lucky to get six months of ramp-up time, said Andrea Dixon, executive director of Baylor University’s Center for Professional Selling …

The squeeze in on for job seekers in some fields, while other areas have seen increases in entry-level jobs.

Negative outlook:  loan officers, insurance underwriters and credit analysts
Positive outlook:  computer systems analysts, public relations specialists, social-media managers

As always, luck plays a role in the job outlook for new college graduates.

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Lauren Weber & Melissa Korn, “Where Did All the Entry-Level Jobs Go?”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 6, 2014.

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