There’s an article in the Sydney Morning Herald today about the difficulties that university graduates are having getting a job these days. It’s not a long piece but, man, if there isn’t some atrocious thinking uncovered in there. On my reading it seems like there is an attitude that is at least somewhat pervasive Down Under that the world should be twisted around to suit the wishes and dreams of the individual.

Sadly, the world does not work quite that way.

A couple of extracts:

Alicia Keir is in her final year of a teaching degree and expects that it will take about two years to find a full-time job once she graduates, but is worried it could take much longer. “I know people who go up to seven years without finding a permanent position,” said Ms Keir, 26, who is studying primary education at the University of Newcastle and lives in Sydney’s south-west.

If it takes you seven years to land a job in a field then your expectations are either way too high or you are way too weak as a candidate. That’s not mean or cruel, that is reality. Yes, there is incredible competition for ‘the perfect permanent job’ but no job is so perfect that you are going to wait around and not work for seven years hoping it’ll be yours. Yes, I understand that this unnamed person or persons probably works elsewhere or in a non-permnanet role during that long stretch without a permanent placement, but still…

Across Australia, about 22 university graduates are competing for every new graduate position and many will need to settle for low-paying entry roles “just to get their foot in the jobs market”, a new national report has found.

“Need to settle for low-paying entry roles”?

What did they expect: a high paying non-entry role because they managed to get through a couple of years of higher education and emerged on the other side with a university degree?

The whole point of a low-paying entry-level role is that you get specific, on-the-job training in a field that the university couldn’t provide. You also don’t make much of a contribution in that sort of role and, hence, the low pay.

But seriously: what other sort of role were all these university graduates expecting to get upon leaving with their diploma?

Nationally, 130,105 people who recently left university with bachelor degrees are competing for 5783 advertised graduate positions, the report found, based on an analysis of the Department of Education’s university completion data and recent job advertisements.

Let’s assume that the math is right here.

Where does that leave the other 125,000 graduates who don’t get an “advertised graduate position”? My guess is that they are mostly working somewhere else (the unemployment rate in Australia is pretty low for graduates – nine out of ten have full-time jobs) at a job that is not specifically aimed at a graduate or that was not advertised as a graduate position. The likelihood that there are 125,000 graduates joining the dole queue every year might be hinted at by the article but it is far from the case.

But imagine you really wanted a graduate position. Where do you get one of these jobs, anyway?

Adzuna’s chief executive Raife Watson said that more than a third of advertised graduate jobs are in Sydney, but the chances of getting a role increase significantly outside major cities. “Don’t be the 20 graduates applying for a job in Sydney, be the two people applying in Gunnedah,” Mr Watson said. “That’s the trick, be flexible in location.”

Good advice, but apparently not good enough advice for the graduate featured in the article:

Ms Keir said she is passionate about teaching and working with children, but will start thinking about a career change if it takes too long to find a full-time job. “I’d potentially go and study again, either further my education and maybe go into high school teaching or, in seven years, I might want to go into a completely differently industry,” Ms Keir said.

She’d return to study again, go into a sightly different field in the same industry, or switch industries altogether…but she wouldn’t move away from Sydney. She really wants to work but not quite enough to get out of the Big Smoke.

This figure was interesting:

More than 7500 Australian students graduated with law degrees in 2015 but there are about 84 graduate law positions advertised nationally on Adzuna, which captures about 80 per cent of the overall job market.

Law, of course, is a field famous for having graduates who don’t work as lawyers, though this still seems on the high side of reasonable. Still, this being Australia, there is an “obvious solution” to the whole mess:

Mr Watson said more needs to be done by governments and businesses to address the gap between what people are studying and where jobs are available. “We need to think about what’s really needed in education, the courses that we really need in the country,” he said. “Why aren’t we pushing more people into [science, technology, maths and engineering] degrees?

Ah, it’s business and government that should do something, and it’s business and government that should push people into STEM fields.

A question: with all the information that students have about the job market, the demand for skills, and the competitiveness of industries where graduates are churned out by the tens of thousands without a specific career path in front of them, why is it that business and government needs to change at all? Why aren’t students being held to account for the choices they make.

Put in another way – and take the law example because there are figures there in the article – if there really are less than 100 jobs available for graduate lawyers and there really are 7500 graduates competing for those jobs, why the moaning on the other side of the diploma conga line about how the government and business isn’t doing enough to push someone into the “right” field where Australia “needs” graduates?

What is with this attitude of “I got my diploma, now where is my dream job”?

The whole article comes off as a problem of attitude and entitlement:

  • I don’t want an entry level job
  • I don’t want the entry level job I am qualified for to pay a low wage
  • I don’t want to compete against so many others for the job
  • I would do most anything other than move out of the city I live in to find a job
  • Government and business should make sure there are jobs in the field I choose to study

With the overarching point being:

  • Someone has to be to blame for me not getting my dream job right away but it can’t be me

Madness. Or maybe I am just getting old and cynical…

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