Workers with specialized skills like electricians, carpenters and welders are in critically short supply in many large economies, a shortfall that marks another obstacle to the global economic recovery, according to a research paper by Manpower Inc. The study mentions an Ohio shipbuilder that had to bring in experienced workers from Mexico and Croatia and a French metal-parts maker that hired Manpower to find welders in Poland.
The paper blames the shortage in part on the “social stigma” assigned to skilled blue-collar work, and cites a poll finding that only one in 10 American teenagers see themselves in a blue-collar job as adults. (The proportion was even lower in Japan.)
Just yesterday, I was going through a stack of Wall Street Journals, and came across an article on “Our Blue-Collar Depression,” by Janice Nittoli. The implication of her article is that those hardest-hit by the recession/depression are those lacking college degrees. Viewed in the context of the Manpower study, it would seem that the real problem is not so much college-educated vs non-college educated, or blue-collar vs white-collar, but rather high-skilled vs unskilled. (Not discounting the fact that the mismanagement of the economy has hit many high-skilled workers very hard also..but in general the high-skilled are still much better off than the low-skilled)
For at least the two decades, there has been an almost religious degree of reverence paid to college degrees. The message has not been “go to college because knowledge is valuable in its own right,” or even “go to college to learn skills you will need for your career,” but rather “get a degree so you can get a good job.” The emphasis has been all on the piece of paper. And when a piece of paper is valued for the circular reason that..it is valued, then you are in a bubble, whether the pieces of paper in question are shares of stock or college degrees.
And as Glenn points, out, bubbles produce malinvestment.
See my previous post the higher-ed bubble, continued, in which I observe that:
Meanwhile, Obama and his education secretary have called for increasing the number of college grads, with Secretary Duncan referring to leading the world in college graduates as “the North Star for all of our educational initiatives.”