Despite being the most educated generation in Australian history, more than 60% of young jobseekers are worried their training may not land them a job in their chosen career.
The findings come as part of the third Future Leaders Index paper. Focusing on education, careers and training, the paper gives credence to many Gen Y concerns. Which is just great.
When asked to describe their perception of “trying to get a full or part time career related role in the current economic environment”, 67% of respondents said they were ‘concerned’; almost half of the current students surveyed also said they would consider further university study due to the current economic climate.
Interestingly, most people surveyed also think there should be a huge increase in the amount of on-the-job training available to students.
A potential over-supply in graduates is also projected in the arts, science and cultural sectors, while the paper suggests future job-seekers should look into growing industries like aged care, transport and wholesale trade.
Overall, the paper (which you can read in full here) outlines young Australians as educated, driven, but subject to economic turmoil brought on by the end of the resource boom and governmental penny-pinching.
Amy Wenham’s future should look bright. By the time she turns 26, she will hold a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and have more than 10 years’ experience working in fields including healthcare, education, research, management, customer service, hospitality and administration.
Yet the 22-year-old is worried about finding decent work after she graduates.
Universities haven’t changed how they teach overnight. The issue is not the quality of supply; its demand from recruiters.
“It’s definitely a concern for me, seeing how many people are going to uni and finding they can’t use it. I see so many people just going back to school because they don’t know what else to do,” she says.
“For me, I’m worried that I won’t have the career that I want.”
She belongs to the most educated generation in history, but Ms Wenham’s fears are shared by most of her peers, according to the latest Future Leaders Index of 18- to 29-year-olds, compiled by university campus retailer Co-op and accountancy firm BDO.
The survey examined the attitudes of more than 5000 young Australians to study and work. It paints a sobering portrait of a generation desperately arming themselves with skills and qualifications, but with little faith they’ll actually land the positions they want.
Two in three respondents were concerned about getting a career-related job. More than half felt job prospects in their field weren’t strong.
Among tertiary students, one in two said they felt so pessimistic about their prospects that they were considering further study so they could avoid making career decisions.
Their doubts may be justified. Today’s graduates are facing the worst job prospects in a quarter of a century – and perhaps even longer, the latest research shows.
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘bleak’ … but these are the toughest labour market conditions since the early 1990s, that’s for sure,” says Graduate Careers Australia strategy and policy advisor Bruce Guthrie.
“The demand for graduates has dropped away.”
The figures are even worse when looking only at new bachelor degree graduates. Among this group, the proportion unable to find full-time work four months after graduating is at its highest since the 1970s.
In 2014, only 68 per cent of new bachelor degree graduates were working full-time four months after graduating, compared with 85 per cent in 2008, research from Graduate Careers Australia shows.
Like previous generations, Generation Y has been raised with the belief that a good education would lead to a good job. But they’re the first generation for which that promise may not hold true, according to Johanna Wyn, director of the University of Melbourne’s Youth Research Centre.
“It’s a global phenomenon. We’re going into a phase where work is precarious,” she says.
“For the first time in history, people who are qualified are struggling to get a foothold … professionals are now on contracts or doing casual work, whereas becoming a professional of some sort used to mean you’d get a proper job.”
In 2011, 26 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with only 5 per cent in 1976, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Having a university qualification is more important than ever, but it has never provided less of a guarantee against job insecurity or even unemployment, says University of Melbourne sociologist and senior lecturer Dan Woodman.
“For this generation’s parents, if you had a bachelor’s degree, that was your ticket. You didn’t have to worry about graduate employment rates because you were in a very elite minority,” he says.
“Now, more and more people are seeing one degree as not enough.”
Among them is Ms Wenham, who will complete a combined BSc in Pharmacology and Master of Nursing at The University of Sydney over just four years.
“The more pieces of paper you have saying ‘I have this degree and this degree’, the better. I think jobs are going to people who can show they’ve put in the hard work,” she says.
The urge to amass degree after degree is understandable, experts say, but it’s far from given that it will bring you closer to your dream career.
“There is a mistaken view that getting more qualifications will improve your employment prospects. I think many employers value experience over qualifications,” Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton says.
Postgraduate courses, which are mostly full-fee-paying, are significantly more expensive than undergraduate courses, he warns. “You’ve really got to be confident that it’s going to pay off.”
Unpublished Graduate Careers Australia figures suggest people coming out of postgraduate degrees without previous full-time work experience have very similar employment prospects to bachelor degree graduates, Guthrie says.
Gen Ys also seem ambivalent about whether more university is the answer to their woes. Paradoxically, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed in the Future Leaders Index said universities weren’t equipping students with enough practical skills for the workplace – even though half said they were considering further study.
However, Guthrie says these beliefs are a reaction to the poor jobs market and not a reflection of university teaching.
“Universities haven’t changed how they teach overnight. The issue is not the quality of supply; it’s demand from recruiters,” he says.
“I suspect graduates aren’t seeing that. They’re just thinking they’re under-prepared for employment.”
Besides, the role of universities is to train people to think and understand the world, not just to prepare them for jobs, Professor Wyn says.
“In fact, our longitudinal studies show the graduates most likely to be in full-time work by the age of 27 are those who have done an arts degree”, she says, probably because they have the skills to “think outside the box”.
Nevertheless, employers and universities are already forging closer links, she says. It’s time policy makers took a seat at the table.
“Governments have been talking up the knowledge economy … requiring that people get post-secondary qualifications,” she says.
“Yet there’s been no plan in place for what’s going to happen to all these people who are so highly qualified. It’s just been assumed that as you increase the level of education of the general population, it will automatically create terrific jobs for them.
As for those at university now, Guthrie says it’s important to put current conditions in perspective. For one thing, unemployment among university graduates is half that of the general population, according to Bureau of Statistics figures.
“Our own research shows that three years after [graduating], their employment figures have improved markedly. So it’s not that they’re not finding work, it’s that they’re taking longer,” he says.
“I talk to students regularly; I know it’s difficult for them. I just tell them to hang in there. Keep trying.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/generation-y-overqualified-but-unprepared-for-work-20151106-gkt2ud.html#ixzz3qxIANLUK
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Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
Image: Rolf Schulten via Getty.