Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Graduate jobs?

The front page story in todays Daily Post is about a lack of "graduate level" jobs for those young people completing their degrees. Apparently there are considerable numbers who end up taking jobs for which a degree is "not needed" and there is some debate about whether we ought to be encouraging quite so many young people to do a degree.

Well, as someone who is employed as a University Lecturer I clearly have a vested interest. But I do think that the marketing of degrees as a way to get a good job has gone a bit too far.

Obviously there are subjects like law and medicine which are clearly aimed at producing people to work as lawyers or doctors. And there are other subjects, like journalism and the one I teach on - PR - which aim to give graduates a chance to get jobs in those professions.

But a degree should never be just about the job market.

My degree is in Philosophy. And let's face it you don't see many job ads in the Guardian for Philosophers. But I gained a huge amount - in intellectual development, high level thinking skills, the ability to research independently etc - from my degree. And it also demonstrated that I had the ability to pursue something at a particular level over a period of time and succeed in it.

And that's what doing a degree should be about. I remember one particular school teacher who said to me that the important thing wasn't learning all the scientific formulae ( a good job as I was useless at chemistry) but learning to think for yourself, to find things out and to develop a life long ability to learn. She was dead right.

Now however we have a situation in which young people are told that they must do a degree to get a job, while racking up loads of debt along the way. No wonder there is some disappointment when the job market is not as easy as had been implied.

I put a lot of time into working with students to help them develop those extra skills and accomplishments that will make them stand out from other graduates. And they will - they are bright young people who know about going the extra mile.

But we must never see degree courses as simply three years preparation for the world of work. They are about a lot more than that.


Tristan said...

You are quite right that a degree should not be about getting a job, unfortunately the government disagrees, as do many employers...

A lack of graduate jobs (broadly being those which want the intellectual development a degree should give) makes me think that perhaps there are too many degrees being given.

PM Swimmer said...

I agree but at the same time we shouldn't have system in which a degree is seen as the only route a young person can take. This results in not only a disenfranchisment of those whose skills don't lend themsleves to degrees but an inevitiable devaluing of degrees.