Recent college graduates feeling the pinch of underemployment

Published: Tuesday, April 22 2014 5:55 p.m. MDT

Also, about 70 percent of 2012 graduates finished school with student loan debt, and the average amount owed was $29,400. More people are earning bachelor’s degrees, so there’s more competition for those jobs as well, Mayne noted.

About 260,000 people held a bachelor's degree and worked a federal minimum wage job in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number is down from 2010 but still more than double the number in 2005.

Unemployment rates in Utah as of December 2013 show that education attainment makes a difference. According to Mayne, the rate for adults with less than a high school diploma is 4.6 percent, 4.5 percent for those with a diploma but no college, 3.3 percent for those with some college or an associate degree and 2.4 percent for those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

However, Mayne pointed out that the statistics don’t reveal underemployment — whether jobs are on par with workers' degrees or skill level.

According to a 2012 survey by The Chronicle and American Public Media's Marketplace, 39 percent of employees value a bachelor's degree the same as five years ago. And 25 percent said they value it more, and 8 percent value it a lot more.

Employers also reported they struggle to find recent college graduates who are qualified for the job because they lack communication skills, can't adapt well and don't know how to think and solve complex problems.

While a degree is often required for a resume to even have a chance for consideration, the study said, simply having a four-year degree isn't enough, and there's a widening gap between what employers want and what colleges produce.

The study said, however, that "the relatively high unemployment experienced by recent college graduates should not prompt us to dismiss the value of a college education in helping young workers find jobs."

Sharon Hutchinson of Lehi graduated from BYU in 2012 and still hasn't been able to secure a full-time teaching job to utilize her degree in social studies teaching.

"Being a recent graduate, having little experience compared to other applicants who had more experience, I wasn’t even given interviews," Hutchinson said.

She’s worked as a substitute teacher and a teacher's aide, and now she is a teacher's assistant at an alternative high school — a position that doesn't require a degree. While she enjoys her work, Hutchinson still checks for new openings a couple of times a week and has considered jobs unrelated to her field.

"Obviously you don't get a teaching degree hoping you'll be a teacher's assistant forever, so I'm looking still," she said.

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: Madeleine6