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College Grads Pay More and Are Underemployed. What’s the Issue?

Dr. Kevin J. Fleming has identified why college graduates are underemployed. And he has a solution.

There is a gap between college graduates and job offers.

Many of the positions in today’s world require people with specific skill sets and the ability to problem-solve. But employers are having a hard time finding those people. This is what’s known as a skills gap.

How is this possible? In our college-for-everyone society where over 60% of high schoolers move onto higher education, it seems absurd that there should be a lack of skilled, employable people to fill job positions. Why do we keep encouraging students to amass huge debts for specialized degrees that they cannot afford after graduation? Where did our education system go wrong?

These are the very questions that inspire all of us at NJIN to do the work that we do – and why we are highlighting Dr. Kevin J. Fleming today who has been inspired by these very same questions for the last 20 years.

A Recovering Academic Elitist

Dr. Kevin J. Fleming is a keynote speaker, author, and the founder and CEO of Catapult who is passionate about career education and revolutionizing our current educational system.

Dr. Fleming describes himself as a “recovering academic elitist.” After obtaining 5 different higher education degrees, he realized that there was a discrepancy between what higher education promised and the reality students were meeting upon graduation. He discovered that a mindset of academic pretension has pervaded our society and blinded us to the type of education students really need to succeed in an ever-morphing economy.

The Real Facts

Dr. Fleming turns upside down the deep-seated beliefs we have about higher education.

Our society believes that a person must have at least a bachelor’s degree to get a good job and make a decent living. This has caused us to center our entire educational system around preparing students to attend university for the sake of a degree rather than equip them with the powers of self-discovery, problem-solving, and technical skills employers are looking for.

So, is it true that someone needs a bachelor’s degree to get a good job in today’s market? Let’s look at a few surprising facts Dr. Fleming presents in his animated video series.

  • Misalignment between degree and job skill causes half of college graduates to be underemployed. 33% are still underemployed into their 30’s.

  • Most jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree – a fact which has been true since the 60’s.

  • 82% of employees and 62% of HR Directors report that employees need to upscale skills at least once a year to maintain a competitive edge.

  • 0Georgetown University predicts that only 33% of jobs in the future will require a 4-year degree.

  • 25% of associate degree holders earn more than bachelor’s degree holders.

  • There are 4 million fewer students in college now than 10 years ago.

  • 77% of students today want to be entrepreneurs and be their own bosses.

The bottom line is that going to a 4-year university and getting a degree is no longer a guarantee for landing a good job. Getting into a good school does not mean students will gain the problem-solving, intuition, technical, or entrepreneurial thinking skills that employers are looking for.

So, what should students do now to prepare for a successful career?

4 Steps to Career Success

We want to share Dr. Fleming’s 4-prong approach that he has created to help students build a successful career path in today’s world.

1. Self-Exploration

Take assessments. Students need to understand who they are and what they’re passionate about. It’s important to discover their unique gifting. This is the best way to choose a career that will be sustainable and grow as they grow.

Students have a much better chance of finding success and financial stability when they pick a career that aligns with their strengths rather than one that makes a lot of money on average.

2. Career Exploration

Discover what careers are out there, what the pay range is like, and what skills are expected. This will help students narrow down the career options chosen from their self-assessments and prepare them for the next step.

3. Career Planning

Create a career goal that involves both personality and abilities. When a student understands what they need to do to achieve their career goals, they can make actionable steps to achieve these.

It’s important for students to keep in mind that this career plan is not life-long. They can always change their career plan later. We must encourage students to not get too hung up on whether they’ve chosen the “perfect career.” It’s more important at this stage to pick one career and see how they can grow and achieve by sticking to a plan.

4. Education + Career Planning

Make a plan that includes various learning opportunities so students can gain the skills and knowledge needed for their career goals.

Students and their mentors should have fun and think outside the box on this one! This is an opportunity to get creative. Learning and skill-building options could include:

  • NJIN programs

  • Internships

  • Apprenticeships

  • Military training

  • Community college

  • Industry certifications

  • Volunteer work

  • Leadership programs

  • Entrepreneurial training

  • Work experience

Dr. Fleming reminds us that what students really need for a competitive advantage are general education, technical skills, certifications, and employment preparation. And the possibilities for achieving these are endless – which is so good! There are many creative avenues for gaining skills and experience that will make graduates stand out to employers and won’t require hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We are so grateful to Dr. Kevin Fleming for his revolutionary work. It is encouraging to us to witness other people leading the charge in rethinking education. We are in this together to help students develop the hands-on skills they really need to succeed in today’s world!

If you are interested in learning Dr. Fleming’s work, please do visit his website.

At NJIN, we are passionate about helping young people discover their earth-purpose to become future change-makers. Our STEM programs are designed to offer structured curriculum and real-world experiences within the natural world in a way that encourages students’ curiosity, innovation, and experimentation. Join us!



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