The Project For Student Debt released data on Nov. 13 that the average amount of debt for a Minnesota state college student was $30,894 last year. The unfortunate thing is that about half of the 20-something college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. An underemployed person is one who works in a low-paying position that does not require a college degree.
These high amounts of personal debt may have several ramifications. First, it may be necessary to take a low paying job to make the payments. Almost 45 percent put off buying a house and 55 percent delay saving for retirement. Fourteen percent delay getting married and 28 percent put off having children.
Some of the good jobs do not require a college degree. In fact, there is a critical shortage of people with certain skills. Many of these 21st century jobs require vocational or trade school training.
Many jobs are becoming available because the skilled people in the baby boom generation are reaching retirement. Some local employers cannot find CNC (Computer Numerical Controlled) operators, machinists, welders, and others with technical and mechanical skills. These are good paying jobs that properly trained young people could fill. The shortage of CNC machinists is so critical that a Wisconsin company has been advertising for people in this newspaper.
Many of our manufacturing jobs are high-tech computer-aided design and production. They require training in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. They are not the “dirty” jobs that some envision. Most pay well. Our young people need to develop the necessary skills for these jobs.
A neighbor of mine serves on the advisory board for land surveying and civil engineering technology program at the St. Cloud Technical College. That program had employers interested in hiring for more than 200 positions. However, there were only four students who had graduated from the Associate in Applied Science degree program and three from the diploma program available for employment in 2014.
There is a shortage of young people with the training to fill our local manufacturing and technical jobs.
Some of our local employers have had to turn to hiring retired people with the necessary skills part-time to get the work done.
Some businesses are trying to get the federal green card program expanded so that they can bring in qualified workers from other countries to fill their technical needs. This is reportedly under consideration by the White House.
Many of those with college degrees are not trained in the skills needed to fill today’s jobs. Our educational institutions need to get more in touch with the real world and train people for the available jobs. Young people also need to look around to discover what training and skills they need to get to fill available jobs.
Our Anoka Technical College began in 1966 as a project of the Anoka-Hennepin School District and local employers. The purpose was to train people with the skills needed to fill the jobs in our community. It worked very well for many years.
A college degree is not necessarily the path to a good job. It is time to again invest in occupational programs that lead to jobs. We need more trained workers rather than more college graduates with heavy debt loads.
Our young people need to examine options that will lead to a good job before blindly embarking on a college degree. Our educational institutions need to become better connected with the requirements of the real world that lead to good jobs. We must match good American jobs and our work force if we are to compete successfully with the rest of the world.