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article imageHarvard study: Over 6.0 million jobs at risk of degree inflation

By Karen Graham     Oct 25, 2017 in Business
A four-year college degree has increasingly become a common requirement when applying for a job, even if the employee currently doing the job doesn't have a degree.
According to a new study published on Tuesday by Harvard Business School professor Joseph Fuller, employers are increasingly demanding that applicants have better qualifications than the person already doing the same job.
What this strange phenomenon shows is that qualified workers are missing out on good jobs simply because they don't have a college degree. It is also costing companies more in salaries. And this is really strange because America has 6.1 million job openings -- A record-high number.
"By raising the bar academically, employers are often hurting their own economics and slamming the door on the opportunity to give a good-paying job to an increasing number of Americans," says Professor Fuller.
Total output of US manufacturing rose over 250 percent from 1980 to 2015  but its workforce slumped ...
Total output of US manufacturing rose over 250 percent from 1980 to 2015, but its workforce slumped by roughly 40 percent in that time
SPENCER PLATT, Getty/AFP
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to do most jobs
The sad part, according to the study, is that for most of the 20th century, the United States prospered as a modern industrial economy, in large part due to the productivity of its workforce. And it was the skilled labor-force of middle-income Americans that contributed to the success of businesses in the Post-WWII era.
However, according to Fuller, there is now a misalignment between the job skills companies want and the skills U.S. workers currently have, and this is hurting businesses, middle-class workers, and the economy.
Companies locate to particular areas based on several criteria, the top one being “better access to skilled labor.” The problem with this is that today, this top reason for locating a company is not always working out.
In a survey carried out in 2013-2014, many companies reported that many middle-skills jobs that were critical to their ability to compete were hard to fill.
Welder making boilers for a ship  Combustion Engineering Co.  Chattanooga  Tenn.
Welder making boilers for a ship, Combustion Engineering Co., Chattanooga, Tenn.
Alfred T. Palmer
Middle-skill jobs include the following: trade workers, including electricians, plumbers and carpenters; drivers of trucks, heavy machinery, delivery vehicles and construction vehicles; and sales representatives for all industries, especially retail. But here's the lowdown - There are currently over 6.2 million job openings in the United States today.
There are currently 6.8 million unemployed Americans and another 6.7 million underemployed Americans who are seeking full-time work. So, what is wrong with this picture? And as that old adage goes, sort of, anyway, most of us don't have to be rocket scientists to do most jobs.
A huge mismatch between supply and demand
Burning Glass Technologies, a Boston-based data firm, analyzed millions of U.S. job postings and found that “Employers are seeking a bachelor’s degree for jobs that formerly required less education, even when the actual skills required haven’t changed or when this makes the position harder to fill.”
Photo of a bulldozer.
Photo of a bulldozer.
Flickr user swong95765
The study also found that 67 percent of the job postings in 2015 for supervisors of production workers required a college degree, yet only 16 percent of the existing supervisors actually had a college education. Fuller argues that this current trend in requiring college degrees for middle-skill jobs is key to the undercurrent in the broader debate about wage inequality, reports CNN News.
One of the reasons for the inbalance may be that companies today don't want to pay for employee training. But this trend is being bucked by many companies today, like Walmart. Walmart is opening 200 academies to train its managers, who aren’t required to have college degrees. Other companies, like IBM and Microsoft are teaming up with schools to provide vocational training.
Basically, this shows that if companies take the time to do the math, they will realize that it is more cost-effective to hire non-graduates and then provide classroom, web-based, or online training that is customized to the company’s needs. But, Hey, that is the way it used to be done, and it worked out fine.
More about Harvard study, degree inflation, Workforce, college degrees, Overqualified
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