The question “What is your specialty?” Has gone from a cheesy pickup line to something much more imperative these days, as employers demand broader skills from college graduates.
Whether you are majoring in anthropology or chemical engineering, companies are looking for a skill set that can go beyond your school’s core curriculum. The ability to speak in public, write a succinct and grammatical business email, perform certain mathematical operations beyond addition and subtraction could be the difference between being part of the growing number of unemployed graduates or to embark on a long and fulfilling career.
Unemployment among people aged 20 to 24 was 13.5% in June; for those 25 to 34, 7.6 percent, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Among graduates who have jobs, 48% are in jobs that require less than four years of college education, according to a January study by the Center for College Affordability & Productivity. In addition, more than three-quarters of these underemployed graduates work in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.
According to BLS data, 284,000 Americans with a bachelor’s degree or above were working for minimum wage in 2012. That’s down from 327,000 in 2010, but up 70% from 2002. That’s lots of well educated baristas and waiters.
For years, employers and recruiters have said recent graduates lack the skills to fill many open entry-level jobs. Of 704 employers surveyed in 2012 for a special report by The Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace, 42% said it was âdifficultâ to find qualified recent graduates, and 11% said it was âhardâ to find qualified recent graduates. ‘described it as “very difficult”.
(Read more: Generation Y may well return to the automotive market)
âThere is absolutely no doubt that there is a talent shortage when you think of college graduates today and the needs of many companies,â said Chad Oakley, president and CEO of the ‘operation of executive search firm Charles Aris Inc. “So many of our clients have significant talent shortages at the lower levels of the company.”
Adding to the problem is the growing number of families who are less confident in the value of a four-year liberal arts education: only 50% of Americans believe a college education is a good financial investment, according to a survey of of 3,000 people per country. Financial published in July. This is down from 57% last year and 81% in 2008.