The phenomena of the unemployed college graduate standing in the unemployment line has become familiar to society in general. The fact it's not unusual in no way changes the truth that it is hard to conceive of a greater waste of time and money. This is a worldwide problem, not simply one experienced by western nations. For example, as recently as 2009 unemployment among college graduates in Nigeria was over 40%.
The first and foremost question that comes to mind is: why is this happening? Why are so many with degrees finding themselves unemployed or underemployed? The second question that needs to be asked is what can and should be done about it?
A lack of adequate skill acquisition certainly is one part of the answer to the why question. In one sense this should come as a surprise to no one. The college years are all about gaining comprehensive understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of a certain body of knowledge. The hands on experience of applying that knowledge has traditionally come later. That is one of the primary purposes of internships.
One of the best examples of knowledge gained in one environment and skills in another is in medicine. Potential doctors know from the beginning that their education will only be the first part of their path to becoming full-fledged physicians. Years of grinding book work must be followed by years of even more gruelling accumulation of hands on experience. It's not enough to know where the appendix is, the skill to remove it can only be gained by actually doing so.
Inexperience and undeveloped skill sets are part of the explanation for high unemployment among those with higher school degrees. It is certainly not the only one and, perhaps not even the primary one. Many graduates may find themselves unable to find or keep a good job because they have simply not learned to get along and work well with others. This is the conclusion reached by several studies and surveys of potential employers. Often referred to as soft skills this simply refers to the various interpersonal interactions needed for people to get along and prosper in any context.
Unfortunately, people coming out of college or graduate school often don't have these. There may be little or no ability to work together with others toward a common goal. The ability to organize one's time and prioritize one's duties, while bearing in mind the responsibility to the employer, often seems to be a completely foreign concept. There may appear to be a complete and genuine lack of awareness of such basics as the need to dress and groom in a manner that reflects well on the company.
If soft skills really are the main reason for underemployment among graduates it's hard not to be discouraged. This is because those skills and social graces should have been learned long before a person ever arrives on the doorsteps of an institution of higher learning. It would be interesting, but beyond the scope of this discussion, to speculate just why that ability to effectively work with others and contribute to a common goal seems to be so often lacking.
Solutions offered for the problem of inadequate skill acquisition sometimes include scenarios in which educational facilities, major companies, and government work in lock step to prepare, produce and properly control students, employees and citizens. Although such programs may have their place it is hard to believe they will ever, in and of themselves, completely solve the problem. The responsibility for being prepared for employment must ultimately fall to the individual. Here are some things he or she can do to that end.
1. Be willing to work your way up the ladder. Don't let pride and impatience keep you from working for an employer who may be able to offer your dream job once you've proven yourself.
2. Take online, or community education courses to gain the hands on skills employers are looking for.
3. Don't be afraid to take a chance on employment with a new company if they are willing to take a chance on you.
4. Seek out apprentice type programs where you can gain skill acquisition under the tutelage of a mentor.