Some 53 percent of U.S. college graduates cannot find a job. What is even more troubling about this number is that an estimated 600,000 skilled, middle-class manufacturing jobs remain unfilled nationwide, most of which have starting salaries of $50,000 to $60,000. Yet, U.S. companies cannot find enough machinists, robotics specialists and other highly skilled workers to maintain their factory floors.
The reason? Today’s young people, by and large, have shunned manufacturing work despite the opportunities. So many are either unemployed or underemployed.
Meanwhile, China, which likes to lord their superior manufacturing prowess over U.S. companies, is facing the same problems plaguing the U.S. job market.
In 1999, only 1 million Chinese were college graduates. But the Chinese government began a push to expand college education, with the result that in 2010, more than 6.3 million graduates entered the Chinese job market. And like the United States, there are not enough jobs.
According to The New York Times: “China now has 11 times as many college students as it did at the time of the Tiananmen Square protests in the spring of 1989, and an economy that has been very slow to produce white-collar jobs. The younger generation has shown less interest in political activism, although that could change if the growing numbers of graduates cannot find satisfying work.”
Some estimate that 30 percent of Chinese engineering students will not find jobs after graduation and that the average pay of college graduates is now approaching that of rural migrant workers.
At the same time, factories in Guangdong province, a city of 15 million, cannot find enough labor. Factories are desperate for workers, despite offering double-digit annual pay increases and improved benefits.
Another New York Times story found that a national survey released this winter by a Chinese university “showed that among people in their early 20s, those with a college degree were four times as likely to be unemployed as those with only an elementary school education.”
Are you seeing a pattern here? College graduates in both countries are snubbing job opportunities that will prepare them for good paying jobs and entry into tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce.
No matter what they think, manufacturing jobs will not go away. Both economies depend on a flow of new goods.
It has been lost on today’s youth that manufacturing jobs require workers who are computer literate and skilled in computer-aided design and engineering.
This message is starting to resonate with Americans, even younger workers who once were heading for college see a brighter future in manufacturing. Yet, the Obama administration stubbornly clings to churning out more college graduates — graduates who cannot find jobs
In April 2012, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan trumpeted the long-delayed blueprint for transforming Career and Technical Education (CTE), by reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006. This Act recognizes that over the next decade, as many as two-thirds of all new jobs will require education beyond high school.
While the administration bragged about the $1 billion being allocated to fund this program, it actually represented a 20 percent reduction. Instead, degree-issuing colleges saw their funding increase by 11 percent.
This administration has simply had its priorities in the wrong place. That’s why we see 25 million unemployed and underemployed Americans.
And even when this administration tries to fix things, they mess it up. The U.S. Labor Department received $500 million to train 115,000 workers. But as of June 30, 2011, just 26,000 workers had completed training and only 8,000 of them had found work, according to the U.S. Office of Inspector General. That’s over $60,000 a job.
Even China wouldn’t waste this much money on a poorly designed program.
Make no mistake. China faces huge unemployment problems that will persist for years. We have the opportunity to reestablish America as the world’s manufacturing leader. But it will take some new thinking.
American youth must embrace the promise of tomorrow’s high-tech manufacturing work force realities. And the government must rethink its approach to higher education, balancing the jobs created by degree-issuing colleges and those created by trade and vocational schools.
Let’s stop assuming that China can out-think us and out-innovate the United States —they can’t and won’t. But it takes some resolve from our leaders to keep their eye on the ball: creating and maintaining good paying American jobs.
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