The Cause of Unemployment

This is a guest post from Mrs. 20′s. After months of urging her to start her own blog, she decided to test the waters with this guest post. Be sure to let her know what you think.

If you are like me, you frequently hear complaints and critiques about our country’s lack of jobs. What most people don’t know is that there are TONS of jobs but those jobs aren’t filled by American workers. Why? Because there aren’t enough highly skilled American workers. In about the last 30 years, over 25 million high-skilled jobs were filled by foreign workers that could not be filled by Americans.

Why Our Education System is Ruining Our Economy

Many people say that there are enough qualified workers here in the USA and that corporations only bring over foreign workers because they can pay them less. Although this factor could be a slight contributor, I know in many instances that it is completely not true. To tell you the truth, American students are not graduating with the skills that they need to compete in this economy. The job growth around the world is occurring in the high tech arena, and American students are not up to speed. To illustrate my point, on an international test meant to measure students’ abilities in reading, math, and science, the USA used to be #1. Now, we are ranked 17th in science and 25th in math. In this new age of technological innovation, this is going to cost our economy!  (I know this information because I am part of a task force that brings together business, non-profit, education, and government leaders in my state to build the pipeline of workers for these highly-skills jobs.)

Now, if you still don’t believe me, I will illustrate my point. I work for an educational non-profit. We partner with corporations (many high tech and pharmaceutical companies) so that their employees can come into our schools and teach mini-elective courses to our students. Out of one of the largest tech companies (with 130,000 employees) that we work with, at least 80% of the employees that I come in contact with are from India, working in the USA on an H-B1 visa. Not only this, but I frequently come in contact with the VP of Sustainability for this particular corporation, and he is extremely concerned about the American pipeline of workers for this industry. Because of this, the organization contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars to educational non-profits and institutions who focus on science, technology, and engineering education, so that they can build the pipeline of American highly-skilled engineers and tech professionals.

We Need to Fix Our Education System First

Therefore, if we are ever going to fix our economy, we NEED to fix our education system. In order for us to not have the high unemployment in our country that we do have, we need to make sure that American students are prepared to take on the challenges of the new high-tech economy. American students need to spend more time learning science, technology, and engineering, and they need to learn it from more than a book. They need to learn it through innovating, creating, and inventing. I believe that this is the only way that we will be able to fill American jobs with American workers and to create new jobs.

What do you think? How can we fix our economy?  

49 Responses to The Cause of Unemployment

  1. I wholeheartedly agree that high school graduates (and even most college graduates) aren’t prepared for jobs that require strong math and science skills. A company is left with a choice – hire an American citizen who will need extensive training to “catch up,” or hire someone from another country who can walk in and do the job after basic orientation. People get on kicks about “foreigners taking our jobs” but are they qualified to take those same jobs? Probably not. And I won’t even get started on the lack of people going into trades – in 20 years when the electricians and plumbers I know are retired, I’m not sure who I’ll get to do repairs since apparently no one will know how.

    I think the issue of unemployment is very complicated and there is no one solution. But I definitely think that letting our students LEARN, as opposed to memorizing material for tests, would go a long way in helping us become better equipped for the future.

    Glad to see a post from you, Mrs. 20s! Hope to see more. :)

  2. Hank says:

    You bring up a great point about our education system. I also think that if we want to create jobs then the government needs to offer a large New Deal type of program building infrastructure. Heaven knows that we need the help rebuilding our roads and rail system as well. That would be a great way to get people back to work like it did in the 1930s.

  3. Excellent points – and great first article. ( I think you can have a great blog full of insightful posts )

    I think you’re right about letting students get more interactive with math and science. If they show an interest, give them all the resources they need to go as far as they want to in school. Unfortunately, our schools limit students with a one size fits all mentality for math and science.

  4. Jai Catalano says:

    Congrats on your first blog article. Very well said. I think language is a huge factor too. I would have liked to see that added in the mix. I know 2 mothers that are having their kids learn 3 languages at once at a very high cost because it isn’t enforced here. We are only taught 1 language until JR. HS. I think long term you are right on track but something needs to happen now to turn this situation around because their is a whole world of people who are passed that era of their life.

    Jai

  5. Squirrelers says:

    Excellent points made, nice post! I think you’re right in assessing education as an issue in many jobs in this economy.

    Really, I think that some of it comes down to entitlement, as well as a bit of aversion to math and science in our culture. With respect to entitlement, I think many people are still influenced by a legacy of thinking of prior generations, that if you just graduate high school and certainly college, things will work out and you’ll get a middle class life. The reality is that there’s no guarantee, and I think that our general focus on education and what’s important probably needs to get more aligned with the reality of today. Focusing on education, having high standards, and truly striving for excellence are all important values for today.

    Along those lines, I think that there’s still an aversion many have to math and science. The reality is that those are hard skills that will take you a long way one way or another. I take special care to focus on math with my kids, even if it isn’t a natural draw for them.

    • Corey says:

      I am glad you are being proactive with your children. I would tend to agree that there is a sense of entitlement, at least in middle and upper classes.

  6. Aloysa says:

    Great first post! You should write more!
    I am a foreigner (an immigrant) who took away a very good position from an American. We competed for the same position, took the same tests, went through the same interviews. I was told later that I got this job because of my education from the US and back home and my ability to show that in a very short period of time (and in the foreign for me) country) I was able to achieve more than another candidate. I think it is not just education. It is also that some of us take a lot of things for granted because we were born into it. And instead of pushing ourselves harder to achieve something, we are relaxed because we know that there is a system (unemployment benefits) that will back us up.

    • Corey says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Aloysa. I agree that Mrs. 20′s should write more. I had her write one more post (for now) and she may end up starting her own blog.

  7. I think there is definitely a flaw in the education system. It starts with schools only meeting for 9 months out of the year. Summer vacation is there because our students used to need the summers off to help with the harvest. Now that we are a society driven by information and not industry it only makes sense to have students in school year round with 2 week vacations at set times. Daycares and summer camps would adjust for the parents that say they have nowhere to send their kids.

    • Corey says:

      Yes, it does seem that 9 month school years are a thing of the past. I don’t think it will go to the extreme (with just 2 week breaks) anytime soon, but the summer break keeps getting smaller and smaller.

  8. I couldn’t agree with you more. When the market first burst, there was a huge job shortage, yet the companies in silicon valley couldn’t get enough workers to fill all the positions they had open. And then we as Americans want to complain about outsourcing…
    Another problem with our schools is that they still use the track system…setting one group of students on the path to college while leading the rest to factory work, skilled labor, etc. This was great in the 50s, when you didn’t need a college degree to work in a factory or do skilled labor. But times have changed, and our schools haven’t.
    I absolutely love this post. I’d read your blog if you chose to write it!

    • Corey says:

      Great – I will pass that encouragement along to Mrs. 20′s. She is contemplating starting her own blog (although not personal finance). Hopefully she will start it and I will get to share it with all of you.

  9. I believe you’re partially right in your assessment. It’s easy to say the education system needs an overhaul in order to continue to compete globally. As long as there are parents not pushing their kids to succeed in the classroom, there will be a continued dumbing down of America.

  10. Funny About Money suggested that high school graduates enroll in vocational programs before being eligible for a bachelor’s degree.

    I think that type of reform would lead to more employable young adults with less student debt (instead of college graduates or near-graduates with little hands-on experience and big loans to repay), but I’m not sure whether it would affect the level of skilled STEM-focused employees in the U.S.

  11. Forest Parks says:

    It always breaks my heart when immigrants get hated on for coming over and filling skilled positions. You couldn’t be more right, education needs to be addressed and fixed, it is in a terrible state, especially university which has become one big money making roller wheel rather than education to better people.

    • Corey says:

      I couldn’t agree more about immigrants being hated on – and yes, education has shifted to being a money maker as opposed to educating the youth.

  12. The root of the problem is this – science and engineering is not popular anymore. In the 60s and 70s, we had NASA and many kids want to be an astronaut or scientist. These days, kids want to be a star.
    Science and Engineering are difficult subjects and you need to put a lot of time and efforts into them. I don’t know what we can do to change this perception.

  13. I don’t think this is just a USA problem. I live in Canada and have seen the same thing. I am amazed at the lack of qualified applicants there are out there. It really scares me as a hiring professional. I have limited people I can hire.

    It also scares me when it comes to my future kids. I want more than anything for them to get a good education and have numerous opporunities. What kind of school to send them to is going to be a tough decision.

  14. I have been working on a future article that discusses this same topic. I work with many immigrants, some of whom have become citizens while others utilize H1-B or the lesser known L-1 visa.

    We have an issue here. If the number of visas could be doubled or tripled they would be filled easily. This says a lot because it isn’t that much cheaper to hire overseas workers to bring them here, compared to say outsourcing the job where there is a cost advantage (that has narrowed over time).

    I think there is more going on here than simply education or the choice of majors that students are selecting (though this is part of it). It’s a morality issue (can I say this in 2012?). These workers are respectful, educated, work hard, and don’t feel like they are owed anything. They have healthy relationships and get married. They follow the immigration rules and respect the laws of the U.S.

  15. Great post! I couldn’t agree more. The problem isn’t just in Tech as well. In my industry – retail – we struggle to even hire cashiers! There are so many people that just don’t have basic skills needed to pass an interview and get a job!

  16. Survival of the fittest! everywhere , all the time. One of the principles of globalization is ..get the things done by best people at cheapest rate and sell it to the riches at maximum price.

    I am an Indian high tech worker, and I beat every born American in every aspect at my work. The reason, I grew up fighting for everything with thousands of others. I cleared entrance test where odd was 1:20,000 to get in to.

    I can go on and on and on…but let me stop. Yes, the only way to fix this is revamping school system. In India a kid in grade 5 knows more than a 7th grader here, just for an example.

  17. Interesting points. I am assuming the Math & Science rankings you mention were from PISA, which tests 15 year olds in industrialized countries. In 2007, on the TIMSS the US was 9th in Math and 11th in Science. In 1995, on TIMSS the US was 28th in Math and 17th in Science. TIMSS is administered to 4th and 8th Grade students. As a Junior High Science Teacher I take issue with the assumption that public schools are not doing a good job educating our students. If you look a little deeper at the data you will see that most US students are competing favorably to their international peers. Certain ethnic groups, primarily blacks and hispanics, are not performing up to their capabilities in school and are dropping out of High School at alarming numbers. We need to figure out a solution to this problem as soon as possible. We can and should do better in educating our children but the problem goes a lot deeper than results on a test.

  18. I would dare say there are multiple factors involved in the dumbing down of America. One of them may be parental expectations. The educational system in America continues to produce incredibly qualified and gifted students. The United States is toward the top of the list in number of patents in force and in number of patent applications along with Japan, China, and Korea.

    However, there are many who bring down the over all average to a poor showing internationally. Could it be that it is not the system, but the home? Compare the divorce rates in the US to the Asian countries. Compare the amount of time spent in school. Does a more stable home life and greater expectations including time spent in school play a role in lifting those at the bottom to assist the average?

  19. Very interesting subject and also scary at the same time. Thanks for the read!

  20. Christa says:

    I read about this statistic recently, and it makes so much sense. Companies want to hire middle-class workers who will be high-performers from the get-go, and this means that they need an employee pool with skilled workers, even if it means going overseas. Education is a major part of this.

  21. MoneyCone says:

    Excellent first post! And you touch upon a very important topic not very often covered by other PF bloggers. You should blog often!

    I think we still have an excellent higher education system. What needs fixing is the quality at the high school level and below and cost at college level and above.

  22. Thanks for pointing out that it’s not just the low skilled, low paying jobs that Americans are losing to foreigners. I cringe when I hear politicians talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs from China. I say, let China keep those jobs.

    A nation as innovative as ours needs to focus on the jobs of the future. We should ask ourselves how do we bring back jobs that are filled by Germany, France, and Japan? How do we prepare our citizens to compete for high paying, high skilled jobs?

    As for how we prepare Americans for jobs of the present and the future, I think we should focus more of our resources and efforts on job training starting at the high school level – maybe sooner. Considering how much money this nation spends on education, we should be able to afford to allocate some of that cash towards prepping high school aged children for JOBS and less on prepping them for college.

    At the college level, we waste a year and a half to two years paying for and completing courses that have absolutely nothing to do with our future professions. How does that benefit us?

    We need to take a strong look at how effectively our educational system has been over the years in readying Americans for good paying jobs. Since we’ve failed so many, it’s time to rethink our strategy.

    Thanks for the awesome post.

  23. I think that the push toward “standardized” deducation has done a lot more harm than good. Or, North America is simply implementing this strategy incorrectly. Prior to standardization, sure, some schools failed students, but many were able educate with ingenuity and passion instead of teachers being forced to teach the same droll material year in year out, decade after decade.

  24. Evan says:

    I don’t know if it is the same all over the country but it seems like be me it is unheard of that kids actually fail. I think the answer is to just realize NOT every kid is a genius. Some kids are just dumber than others and that is ok.

    I don’t think you gave an answer – how would you fix education?

    • Mrs. 20's says:

      I am not sure there is any one answer to fixing the education system. I think there are a few large things that need to change for our education system to be successful, but I don’t claim to have the answer.

      1. Students in the US typically are learning from textbooks, while students in other countries are learning by innovating and experimenting and doing. Part of this is from our lack of trained teachers. In countries that are achieving highly in areas such as engineering and science, it is required that teachers have a Master’s Degree in Teaching. Therefore, the teachers are much more well trained and given more freedom in the classroom. They are not bogged down by hundreds of pages of common core standards. In countries like South Korea, they have about 10 pages of standards.
      2. Because of the testing frenzy from No Child Left Behind, our teachers are now teaching to the test. In many schools, students do not even get a full hour of science a week. In nations that are ranked much higher on PISA assessment scores, those nations do not have high stakes testing. The only standardized testing that they have is to assess teachers.
      3. So many of our students have fallen behind in their basic proficiency levels, especially in low-income communities. These students need to have more time for learning. For low-performing schools, I would suggest expanding learning days with a second shift of educators. This expanding day would include academic coaching, innovative, hands-on learning, and life skills. I actually work for an organization that does this – check out citizenschools.org.

      I don’t want to write a full novel, so I will stop here. Thanks for the question.

  25. I write about this topic consistently over at my site. There is no doubt in my mind that we are not preparing student well enough in our public schools. Private school membership has never been more popular, and as a public school teacher I can definitely understand why! There is an absolutely excellent piece on this (as well as some outside-the-box and very creative solutions) in the book “That Used To Be Us,” that was just released. It’s a great read.

  26. [...] Rose “You have to go to school to get a good job.”Looking for job? Scared that the cause of unemployment may be growing? Sign for free at http://www.Job.com and see who’s hiring today!That was a phrase [...]

  27. [...] post is not about my reasoning for rent or buy decisions, high risk life insurance, or cause of unemployment. I don’t even write about these things, right? This post actually was prompted by Joe who blogs [...]

  28. [...] next hobby. Just be sure that you don’t get so involved in the hobby that is ends up being a cause of unemployment — or if you do love it so much, make sure that you take the steps to make your hobby a money [...]

  29. Monica says:

    Mrs.20′s,
    Thank you for such an excellent article on a topic that is crucial to the future of our society. Having four boys myself, I have seen firsthand what happens when “teaching to the test” occurs. Students are not taught to use logical thinking, they scan reading material but don’t comprehend what they read,they use technology to solve every math equation but they can’t make change,etc. As you mentioned,there are many factors that play into this situation, and there are multiple areas that need to be changed.I would add that today’s children are taught that everyone should win and we shouldn’t keep score.You should receive a good grade for effort, not quality. Parents should be teach a child self esteem and not teach them to be independent. I can only hope that somehow the situation will change because people like you care enough to get involved.

  30. Great article. Not completely the same, but I was having a discussion about education on my blog with a reader. We believe in starting a good foundation early – and therefore are keeping our son in preschool even though we are struggling financially. My reader believed that preschool is an option, and that parents can teach a pre-K child everything they need to know. I provided her with an article in my local newspaper that quoted a school administrator saying that children who did not have preschool, entered Kindergarden a full 18-24 months behind their peers. She disagreed with me, which was fine. Everyone has their own opinion on what is best for their child. In fact, a home schooled child can often do much better academically than one with a traditional education – I don’t think I’m the best home school mom though.
    I know it’s very different than high school kids, but I think a foundation of education is important. If a child is excited to learn at an early age, then maybe (i’m saying this because I have no idea, I only have one and he’s 19 months old), maybe encouraging that learning is the best way to educate them. We are astounded at our son’s capacity for learning – more so that he wants to learn more than we think he needs to. Strange to see a 19-month old flash carding himself on the ABCs. We didn’t even try, he just started holding up letters and telling us what they were. That’s the type of independent learning we are hoping for – because that is something we think is missing from our education system today. If his preschool is encouraging that, then heck yeah we’re going to continue with it regardless of the amount of money it costs us.

  31. [...] end job?  Invest It Wisely takes a close look.Mrs. 20s Finance discussed why there is so much unemployment these days.  It comes down to skills.The topic of travelling, and whether it is over rated was [...]

  32. I believe that the reason that we are having many of the problems that we have today is simply because everyone decided years ago that the united states could have an economy based on financial services professionals like financial planners insurance agents CPA’S just take a look around the corner of the town you live in and you will find the insurance agents office the financial services company or a financial services company renting space inside a bank selling mutual funds and annuities. The only problem with this picture is its reversed saving creates financial services businesses What we have is an industry that makes its money off of money by charging money to manage money. Instead of creating real jobs that create real wealth we have quite the reverse. And what does everyone see when they think of their children graduating from college. Someone sitting at a desk in some bank in front of a computer. Although Education is a major factor its certainly not the only factor as far as unemployment goes. The argument that if everyone were skilled we would have no unemployment problems Is false. If you were to take all of the janitor’s in the country and turn all of them into engineers overnight you would have way to many engineers that you could ever hope to employ as engineers. And at the same time you would still need to replace all the janitor’s with another group of janitors.

  33. Kolton @FMT says:

    I enjoyed this post not only because you are a great writer but the points made are spot on. It is sad for the fact our educational system has been depleting and continues to do so in this increasing evolving world. I agree, that there really is not much of an answer for this, but I will say that our universities need a complete overhaul, and High Schools in America need to do a much better job of preparing students to the next level. And, if our universities are willing to overhaul the teaching strategies and tactics, the high schools need to adapt as well.

  34. [...] While I know that international workers will adapt and continue to use their hard work ethic to give themselves an advantage in a time of high unemployment, it doesn’t make it okay to treat others this way. If you enjoyed this, you might like:Is [...]

  35. [...] no secret, it’s hard to find a good paying full time job. With unemployment still sitting around 8%, those out of work have typically resorted to low paying retail and fast [...]

  36. Fred Jones says:

    A world with a global market means global competition. As a child I was not encouraged to educate myself. So I left school early and expected to get an entry level job with a company that would invest in training me for the next higher position on and on until I reached the top. This I discovered as I entered the job market was a fallacy. So I went back to school and got a job as an apprentice plumber. When I went through college to do my plumbing schooling I studied very hard with a goal of perfection. I got awarded the highest mark in the class. Then I learned on the job as a plumber doing construction employers are not interested in how perfect of a job I can do but how quickly I can get the job done. It does take a little more time to do a perfect job. This I see as our problem throughout society even with our education system. The focus is on how quickly we can get the job done rather than on how accurately we can get the job done. Example: I was in a severe accident and experienced a near death experience. Now I’am a physically disabled and brain inured person making me one of the most unemployable people in existence. I’am employing myself as a non fiction writer writing a book about a discovery I made concerning consciousness. Should my goal be to write the quickest book I can or to aim for perfection and use up the extra time it will take to write a truly non fiction book which is correct. We are voting for leaders who can come up with quick answers rather than taking the time to properly reason and choose the leader with the correct answer. How does this relate to solving the problem we have with unemployment. Instead of looking for a leader to guide us so we can all be followers. We need to learn how to be creative and being creative means guiding yourself. Invent a product and become an employer of yourself. I read as many books as I can to educate myself with a goal of self employment as my own publisher. To remain honest and write a non fiction book about the most powerful force in existence I must compete globally and become one of the wisest people in the world.

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