With unemployment hovering at 9 percent and a growing demographic of laid-off job-seekers in their late 20s and 30s, it’s certainly not the best time to be a fresh college grad.
Last week, CNN published a report that lays the bleakness on thick, describing the last few years of graduates as the “Lost Generation” and citing the troubling stat that 60 percent of ’06-’10 grads don’t have a full-time job in their chosen profession. Like clockwork, the New York Times promptly delivered its own spin on the “college kids are screwed” angle.
But are they? Or, at least, are they all screwed equally? The conversation has primarily focused on the big-name schools that, with their emphasis on critical thinking and high-minded intellectualism, may not actually be the best places for preparing students for the real-life workforce.
Few articles have focused on vocational schools, or even traditional colleges that have established co-op programs. A recent Rutgers study (PDF), which sampled a nationally representative group of people who graduated between 2006 and 2010, found that students with internship experience in college earn a median salary that’s nearly $7,000 higher than those without. At Northeastern University, most undergrads spend at least two or three semesters in the working world, and the result (at least according to the university) is that approximately 40 percent of students nab post-grad gigs with one of their co-op employers.
Given the current job predicament for new grads, it’s surprising there aren’t calls for a wider range of colleges to implement similar institution-wide program requirements for students.
News coverage of recent grad unemployment also often glosses over the fact that some majors more readily lend themselves to stronger job prospects than others. One analysis found that graduates who majored in education or engineering are over 50 percent more likely to end up in a job in those fields than people with more liberal-arts concentrations like the humanities.
This may trouble folks who view college as a place to explore different disciplines rather than speed through a pre-professional track. In our current climate, though, it seems to be the students who prepared – the ones who got on-the-job training and focused on more specialized fields of study – that end up being a bit less “lost” than the rest.
Adam Conner-Simons is a communications writer and journalist whose work has been published in The Boston Globe, The Huffington Post, Paste Magazine and other publications.