Obama's New Student Debt Plan Will Exacerbate America's Widening Skills Gap


obama signing documents

Workers in the skilled trades, such as electricians, welders, and machinists were the hardest for employers to find from 2010 to 2012 and the second hardest in 2014, according to surveys by the human resources consulting firm ManpowerGroup. This problem is likely to continue because a majority of the workers in these professions currently are 45 or older.

Genevieve Stevens, an administrator for Houston Community College at Central College, articulated how we got into this predicament and offered a way out of it when she spoke to Houston Chronicle:

"For two or three generations, the focus has been to go to college, get a degree and in doing so you will ensure a brighter future with more access to employment. We started focusing on academic instruction, but left behind the notion of work-force education. However, in a two-year institution that costs less, the average work-force student can come out of that program with skills to gain immediate employment."

But President Barack Obama's new plan to decrease student debt will only make the problem worse since there is a deficit of workers in skilled trades, but a surplus of people with college degrees. Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute reported last week that a third of graduates with a bachelor's degree are in jobs that don't require the credential. Underemployment is even worse for people with graduate degrees. He writes: 

"In the name of helping them, federal politicians, and many other people, massively oversell higher education to the detriment of students." 

Government influence on higher education has already unbalanced the supply and demand of the labor market enough. Obama's plan to try and make college more accessible will only serve to exacerbate this problem and further widen the skills gap that currently exists in the job market. 

Reason TV spoke with Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe about the skills gap:

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  1. Can I start my career in welding, electrical, or machining without joining a union?

    1. Our representative, Vito, will be happy to explain this matter in more detail.

      1. I understand I have to start as an apprentice, then work my way to journeyman. These are classifications that the IBEW established. So I guess I have to join the union. But it is impossible to get into any union shops because every electrician there is 45 or older and makes so much money hat companies can’t afford a newbie like me.

    2. That’s a nice car you got there friend, would be a shame if something were to happen to it.

      //Totally Not a Union Thug

    3. Those careers are racist. An good person gets a degree in gender studies and then becomes an unemployed professional whiner.

      1. What about Blacksmithing?

        1. Whoa!! Blacksmithing totally produces CO2!!!!

    4. No. Nor can you start your K-12 teaching career.

      1. One started out in the food industry, and the other went to a two year college and got a degree. The one with the college degree was very smart about it, and worked his way through college and has no debt. Sometimes they may use paydayloans for usa residents.
        The other had no educational debt because he didn’t go to college. However, today both work in tool¨ for the same company, and both are up for supervisor positions.

    5. Around these parts you can (East TN). Not long ago I was looking into welding classes at the local schools that offer such things, you know, the schools I already paid for without setting foot on their grounds.

      All of the classes had waiting lists for the next forever. You would think with a demand like that, the central planners could arrange for more capacity.

      1. It’s a tightrope balancing act between getting taxpayers to foot the bill for training the next generation of industrial laborers without glutting the union to which they’ll belong.

    6. As far as welding goes; that’s what I did. Learned GMAW welding in 6 months while working as a robot welder at a shitty factory. I won’t lie, I made shit pay while learning my trade for a few years, but once I was willing to relocate I was able to quickly find work that paid a good wage.

      The work is physically demanding and can be rather frustrating but the job field is so cluttered with fuck-ups, imbeciles and incompetents that being the least bit responsible and intelligent will make you invaluable. It is also a field where you can demonstrate your competency, or lack there of, in about 5-10 minutes that no resume will ever be able to bullshit your way past.

      Unions are heavily involved in large building construction and pipe welders. They obviously make the most money but are frequently unemployed and have the most arbitrary hoops to jump through. Oh, and never expect to work a 40 hour week as a welder, 50 minimum if you are lucky.

  2. The guy who installed my new hot water heater a few weeks ago was a kid. Wasn’t even 21 yet.
    No student loans, making almost 6 figures. If he’s still living with his parents, he’ll be sitting on a pretty nice nest egg when he moves out.

    1. Yeah, but he’s missing out on the joys of having gotten a useless degree for a ton of money! Why do you hate the under-21 children?

      1. Plus, he missed out on getting indoctrinated instructed in the proper ways of behaving in a progressive society.

        I bet he doesn’t even know that he’s part of the patriarchy, part of the problem, and how to properly check his privilege! Do we really need monsters like that running loose in society?!

        1. All excellent points, i’ll grab the torches, you get the pitchforks, and we will track this SOB down for some tolerance training.

  3. Mike Rowe does not get enough credit for his efforts in raising awareness about the massive trade skills gap in the US right now. His FB page is also quite entertaining.

    His diatribe about his guidance counselor in high school who had the “Work Smart NOT HARD!” poster in his office is a thing of beauty.

    More details for those who haven’t heard bout his campaign here-

  4. I always regretted not going straight into college, opting instead to work a series of variously unsatisfying day jobs while deciding what, precisely, I’m meant to do. Having gotten my foot back in the water over the last several terms and getting ready to commit to a full-time program, items like these give me serious reservations about how to proceed.

    1. STEM or accounting. Very little else has a decent ROI.

    2. Don’t fall into the loan trap, and do your research! If you find a good university with a productive major, and you pay as you go, you’ll be in great shape when you graduate.

    3. Ignore their advice. The Humanities is where it’s at.
      [of course you could just read that shit on your own and watch youtube vids of smart people talking about those smarty books]

      1. I’m thinking I’ll double-major in print journalism and women’s studies. If that fails I can always fall back on a lucrative career in blogging.

        1. The fucked up thing is, sometimes that plan works.

          1. Frustrating in more ways than I care to admit.

            I wish I had an ounce of the sense of self-promotion required to make it in a career writing for top-notch mainstream venues. I could do without the self-delusion and/or mendacity that characterizes axe-grinders hacking away at their craft, but if I had some Ghostbusters-like mechanism for sucking out that ability to market themselves into cushy jobs cranking out five-hundred word essays every week, well… I probably wouldn’t worry so much about my post-graduation job prospects.

    4. I was recently in the same situation. But I don’t necessarily recommend listening to other people tell you what you should go into (*ahem*)

      What worked for me was to get feedback from other people about my strengths and then experiment with classes that catered to said strengths, telling myself they were “just for fun”. That turned out to be just what I needed to get the motivation to seriously give it another go. It leads to thoughts of, “wow, I could get paid for this?”. Then you need to do research and find out whether there is a market for the skill. Both steps are necessary, IMO. If you just do what is fun, it might be something with no job prospects. If you just do what is marketable, it may not be right for you.

      1. Oh, absolutely. I’ve been dabbling with a focus on maths and sciences, and I intend to transfer into the local university’s school of engineering after exhausting the unbelievably cheap classes at the feeder community college. When I get there, well… we’ll see. I’m not convinced I won’t wash out in the first few terms.

        Unfortunately I’ve made a bad habit of looking up horror stories from engineering grads, many of whom seem to be digging themselves deeper in grad school after several months of unemployment. It’s less than inspiring stuff.

  5. Unemployed Ivy Ph.D. (Biology) here. Have been without a regular job for a year now and trying to make it as a writer. Problem is that there are lots of other folks in my situation thanks to the goosing of the NIH budget in the 90s and 00s. They covered all costs for me to get my Ph.D and paid my tuition too. Sweet deal for the university but the result is what happens when supply far exceeds demand. Even very talented scientists (which I am not) are having a hard time and are now competing for community college teaching jobs. I suspect that any effort by the government to further subsidize higher ed, especially in STEM, will have the same effect.

  6. My two sons took different approaches but both ended up in the same place. One started out in the food industry, and the other went to a two year college and got a degree. The one with the college degree was very smart about it, and worked his way through college and has no debt. The other had no educational debt because he didn’t go to college. However, today both work in tool¨ for the same company, and both are up for supervisor positions. Neither is up to six figures a year yet, but both are over 50k already at the age of 23 and 26. Both have full time jobs with all of the benefits that anyone would like to have, and they both pretty much name their own hours, with both working about 10-15 hours overtime a week. Their wages aren’t as high as some in the shop in which they work, where some are earning $30+ dollars an hour yet, but they can see what their future holds when realizing that their jobs are safe, and that their wages increase yearly. The demand for CnC and tool¨ is booming. Yes its hard work, and finding a company that will apprentice you might not be easy, but if you can get in the door, the door is always open.

  7. The biggest debt today is student debt. There are so much students who took student loans. I think that our country is so poor because Obama raise the rates and people can’t pay back their loans. It seems to me that if you really want to study you should save up and then get a loan online before entering to the university for additional expenses. May be it is cruel but you and your parents have to think about your future from your childhood.

  8. There is certainly something to be said for becoming a skilled tradesman. Many make a lot of money having their own business. Going to university is also a great option but an expensive one. There are many people who have to get a loan online in order to make their repayments. It is important to be sure of a career path before making the decision.

  9. Student Loan Relief works with the Department of Education to significantly reduce your monthly payment

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