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Mal-Employment and a Commonwealth of Opportunity

By Marshall Kirby | May 16, 2011 | No Comments

Virginia has been successful in recent decades in attracting major employers and building a strong workforce.  However, policymakers need to pay more attention to the plight of many of our educated young adults.  They are capable and have skills, yet face a structural mismatch.  Leaders in Richmond and our localities should take notice, take an inventory of our educated young people’s skills, and commit to  targeted workforce policy interventions.  This vacuum of leadership only ensures the continuance of untapped economic potential.

This urgent need is evident in an enlightening new article in The Richmond Times Dispatch on the state of affairs for many Virginia graduates of higher education.  We all know that the economy is still lagging, with both Virginia and the US labor force still struggling.  While the economy is on the upswing, a lot of untapped capacity is holding the overall recovery back.

“Mal-employment”-the classification for those with a degree who hold a position that does not require advanced education-remains very high, and has been trending upwards over the last decade.  A recent study has shown that only 60% of graduates hold a job which requires a college degree.

Households are still trying to stabilize whatever economic security they can muster.  Many families have been struggling for years to fund s college funds.  Budget cutbacks have put a squeeze on state universities, and tuition is continuing to rise must faster than inflation and wages.  Adding to problems facing students and their families, the hiring of college grads and graduate students is still much slower than several years ago.

The article does a great job highlighting that while survey indicators and hiring data show some improvement, many graduates are still struggling to find employment in their field of study.  A rocky job market in which more experienced candidates are available and sought after has created a “glass ceiling” for many graduates struggling to break into their industry.

A few graduating students have been very lucky, and found a good job in their field through networking and past internships. However, many have not been so lucky and either have not been able to find a job or have a job outside of their career field.

We need to do everything we can to help educated, hard-working workers find jobs that are tailored to their expertise. We are a commonwealth, after all.  We should make equality of opportunity the goal of the Virginia economic family.

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