The problems and solutions to a Shortage of Skilled Jobs to Accommodate Degree Holders




The problems and solutions to a Shortage of Skilled Jobs to Accommodate Degree Holders


Research indicates that the people that have post-secondary education have better lives get better jobs with more money, are happier, healthier, and more engaged in civic duties. Education is an integral aspect of American meritocracy. It is through education that people from poor backgrounds improve their lives and socioeconomic status. However, there is a large number of people out there who are jobless or working jobs that are way below their skills. Graduates are struggling to find positions that are corresponding to their education. According to a study by Horowitz (2018), skilled jobs are too few compared to the number of college graduates. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Center for Education Statistics report that there are 6 million more graduates than the jobs available. This paper seeks to identify problems and solutions to this phenomenon.


The BLS projects that the number of jobs that require degrees will increase to 29,176,700 by 2020 from 26,033,000 in 2012 (Snyder & Dillow, 2014). This means that the number of unemployed graduates will still exceed the number of available jobs. In an interview with Neal Lesley a director of education at a local community college, he identified credential inflation as one of the reasons for these statistics. He said, “employers include an additional credential that is not necessary for a certain job.” “Most employers ask candidates for credentials just because they have the power to do so.”

Stacy Jones is an educator in the same institution and had this to say in addition to the comments of Mr. Lesley, “only two-thirds of bachelor degree-holders are working in positions that require their skill set, the rest are working in jobs that do not require the credentials they possess. This number does not just represent new graduates but also includes people who have been working the same career track for many years.”

My parents were also interviewed and being degree holders, they were the perfect candidates to represent parents. This is what my father had to say, “I am not sure if this can be considered a problem, but the reason why there are more graduates without jobs is that the investment in higher education has grown significantly over the years. A few years back there was not as much incentive to join tertiary institutions as they are now.” Further research on this claim showed that this is called education expansion and it has a deleterious outcome on bachelor degree holders. As a hiring officer, my mother says that “we are now forced to include a B.A as a requirement even for jobs that do not require such credentials because of the huge number of job seekers in comparison to the available posts.” This explains why college graduates are working lower-skilled jobs although this has not helped a lot because there are still a significant number of unemployed graduates.

The next interviewees were a group of former workmates at my last summer job. The interview that stood out was with Blake Eastwood an educator by profession but works as a manager at a printing firm. His opinion was that “since schooling was made compulsory, a lot of mechanization, specialization, and routinization have followed.” He says that the need for skilled labor has fallen significantly. “For instance, car assembly lines do not require a craftsman to build an entire vehicle using their knowledge and skill but instead one person is required to add a few screws to cars as they go through the assembly belt.”


The solution to education expansion is making high-quality education more accessible. Education expansion is a result of the expansion of low-quality education. The programs that are given to most students do not do much to promote social mobility. According to McMillan (2017), not-for-profit colleges have focused on getting more people degrees than offering education that raises human capital. Dysfunctional labor markets and social contracts are the reason why there are so many problems with higher education. The microeconomic paybacks of human capital can only be realized if higher education is in fact able to deliver human capital.

The other solution is investing more in jobs that need high skills. It is obvious that the shortage of college graduates is not something to expect. However, the increased number of graduates means a decline in the value of these degrees, which is also a sign of having fewer high-skilled jobs. research initiatives by universities can help in the generation of skilled jobs. According to Abel and Dietz (2009) on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, colleges and universities have a significant role in increase human capital in the regions they are located in. This is done through research and development activities. Research and development activities increase the levels of human capital because spillovers from these activities have a positive correlation to increased demand for human capital. Metropolitan areas that have more college and university activities are found to have a larger share of graduates working jobs in high human capital occupations (Abel & Dietz, 2009). In essence, colleges and universities are able to raise the levels of human capital by increasing the demand and supply of a certain skill.

The third solution should focus on easing the pressure on education to fix inequality. The education system is not able to fix the problem of what is referred here as “bad jobs.” Bad jobs are those that pay poverty-level wages without enough benefits. Relying on education to change the economic status of workers does not consider the fact that many graduates are still working bad jobs ensuring the stability of inequality. There should be long-term strategies by employers and the government to provide better training opportunities that increase human capital and reverse the trend of unemployed or unprotected degree holders working bad jobs, which is not so different than being unemployed.


More than 6 million graduates are unemployed and the projected increase in jobs does not promise to cater to this number, which will grow as well considering more people graduate each year. credential inflation is one reason for this statistic where employers abuse their mandate by requiring credentials unnecessarily. The other issue is that increased investment in education has not been matched by investment in jobs requiring a higher level of human capital. Instead, education has resulted in a reduced number of skilled jobs as automation has increased. This in essence is education working against itself. To fix this, it should be understood that education cannot solely handle the problem of poverty and inequality, there should be other strategies to go with it including increasing the demand for these skills. There should be more to making education accessible which is making quality education accessible not just education for the sake of it.


Abel, J. R., & Deitz, R. (2009). Do Colleges and Universities Increase Their Region’s Human Capital? Staff Report No. 401. Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Horowitz, J. (2018). Relative education and the advantage of a college degree. American sociological review, 83(4), 771-801.

Kalleberg, A. L. (2011). Good jobs, bad jobs: The rise of polarized and precarious employment systems in the United States, 1970s-2000s. Russell Sage Foundation.

Snyder, T. D., & Dillow, S. A. (2014). Digest of education statistics 2011. National Center for Education Statistics.