As high school students learn during their senior year of high school, attending college and receiving a quality education from a good university is crucial. Earning a degree from a well-known university significantly boosts one’s competitiveness in the new global economy and makes it easier for a new graduate to get a job.
And now a college education is more crucial than ever. In the global economy, the U.S. labor market is in a state of deep fluctuation and many companies are looking to hire the best and the brightest candidates.
Despite all this fluctuation, the most underreported story during this recession has been that, despite the 9.4 percent unemployment rate according to a December 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics Economic News Release, many companies are looking to hire and expand, according to an article in the Jan. 14 issue of Time magazine.
Yet these new jobs are not found in such traditional areas as manufacturing. Rather, many of these jobs are found in white collar professions such as bioengineering and professional and business services.
Underlining this increase in white collar opportunities is that network systems and data analysis is the second fastest-growing occupation behind biomedical engineering in the United States, according to the Time article.
Despite this growth, some people still may lament what they see as the end of manufacturing in the United States. While it is true that companies are able to manufacture the same goods of the same quality at a fraction of the cost as they do in America, it is not as if the United States has lost its economic competitiveness.
The United States, though, must look past such traditional and conventional job markets as heavy manufacturing and start looking into such areas as nanotechnology and green energy innovation.
For the United States to retain its economic dominance, the backbone of its power, there must be a shift in focus from such traditional means, such as heavy manufacturing, to newly emerging areas of technology.
An area that is rapidly emerging and is one in which the United States is decisively ahead is nanotechnology. There is great potential in the job market for this field, but it is one where applicants must be well-educated.
With the rise of white collar job markets and the decline of traditional, blue collar jobs, it seems as if there is a growing divide in the U.S. labor market, a gap between those who are well-educated and easily able to adapt to the new world and those less educated and finding themselves increasingly obsolete. This divide continues to grow as traditional jobs for the less-educated are being shipped overseas where they can be done cheaper.
So this leaves the United States in a precarious situation in which a large minority that is not college-educated cannot easily adapt and is seeing its prospects undermined by workers in countries like China.
In essence, there is a huge gap between the top end and the low end of the labor force in the United States and, if care is not taken, this gap will only continue to grow, which would result in huge inequalities, a drain on government resources and social unrest.
Although these prospects seem gloomy, there is hope for the future in the labor market, but steps must be taken to improve both the labor market and the average worker’s competitiveness.
First, there must be a concentrated effort on improving the education system where it has failed, namely in poorer, inner-city areas. Better-educated people, in general, will be more likely to be accepted to a college and to receive a quality education that will help their competitiveness.
Another way to improve the labor market would be to retrain those who have been fired or laid off. Retraining workers who have been fired will help boost the workers’ chances of being productive members of the new economy.
Although it may be several years before the unemployment rate is down to 5 percent again, and although some jobs may never come back, the United States can still lead the way forward by investing in the future of its labor market.
Jordan Rubio is a freshman broadcast journalism major from San Antonio.