It’s a time of pomp and circumstance in the Rio Grande Valley and across the country, as high school and college graduates don their caps and gowns and march across the stage and into what their parents probably told them was “the real world.”
We congratulate all graduates on their achievement; the fact that a majority of Americans have at least a high school diploma doesn’t lessen the accomplishment. Those who began school in pre-kindergarten already have endured at least 14 years or more of early rising, homework and high behavioral expectations by the end of 12th grade.
Good news faces this year’s graduates — and it doesn’t. On the good side is an economy that continues to grow stronger. Employment prospects are good. However, those jobs might not be the ones you’re looking for.
That might frustrate people who have invested untold amounts of sleep, social life and money earning a college degree, but there’s no reason to panic.
A study by Burning Glass Technologies and the Strada Institute for the Future of Work indicates that while more than 78% of recent graduates find work, about 43% are underemployed — either working part time or outside of their field of study. Many of them wind up in jobs that don’t even require a college degree.
But learning doesn’t stop when classes end, and among the first challenges graduates must face is the need to learn patience and perseverance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American worker holds 10 different jobs by the time he or she reaches age 40.
Burning Glass notes the choice of majors is important. Liberal arts majors will find few non-teaching jobs available, while business majors will find that these popular fields of study will mean plenty of competition for jobs. Specialization increases one’s chances: underemployment for business majors is 43%, but it’s lower for those who specialize in finance or marketing, for example.
And of course, some will find out that their field of study isn’t what they really want to do with their lives. They might join those pursuing advanced degrees by returning to school.
That’s something high-school graduates who plan to go on to college should consider.
Those who don’t face better news. The BLS predicts substantial growth in several fields that require only a high school diploma or the equivalent. But most also require the acquisition of new skills through extra study, apprenticeship or other means.
Many of the top jobs are in the ever-growing healthcare fields, ranging from physical and occupational therapy aides, medical secretaries and even opticians, hearing aid specialists and ambulance drivers. Others are in construction specialties such as insulation installation, road construction and even solar panel installation.
Fortunately, graduates have youth on their sides. It, and the energy that normally comes with it, will come it handy. You’ve come a long way, but the road ahead is even longer, and it’s filled with twists and turns, and more than a few surprises.
We welcome all graduates into the real world, and look forward to sharing many bits of information that aren’t taught in classrooms. And we’re sure we’ll learn a few things from you as well.