Here are a couple more interesting emails from readers in response to Is There a Shortage of Skilled Workers? My Own Personal Experiences.

Steve Keen Responds

Thanks mate–and you’re spot-on.

People who suggest that education is the solution to unemployment, thus implying that it’s the workers’ fault  they’re out of work, have no idea what is required to actually get an education or to work in the areas they’re nominating as having “skill shortages”. Most of these experts wouldn’t know a skill if they fell over it.

I saw this all the time in the university sector. Bureaucrazy managers would waft away about “alternative modes of delivery” (a buzz-phrase from the late 1990s) as a way of reducing the costs of delivering tertiary education.

The amount of waste these morons generate as a result of their lack of knowledge of what skills really are is incredible. It’s that and the burden of debt that explain the unemployment levels, not the inappropriate training of the workforce.

By the way, I’ve just been appointed Head of the School of Economics, History and Politics at Kingston University in London–totally unexpected since these positions virtually always go to Neoclassicals. But they have hired me specifically to make it into a center for alternative thought in economics. I’ll start here in July.

Best, Steve

Congratulations and best wishes to Professor Steve Keen

Useless Degree Holder Chimes In

UDH writes …

Hello Mish,

I have been a steady reader of your site for many years and have always found your analysis pragmatic. I initially jumped into a 4-year school right out of high school and due to unfortunate circumstances I had to withdraw during my first year due to medical reasons (completely resolved now). The following year I took general classes at my local community college meant to satisfy prerequisite courses while I determined which career path and major was the way to go.

Long story short I found out about the FAA CTI program, and coincidentally in my state there is a 2 yr college that offers the degree (most are 4 year degrees paired with airport management), which if you meet the FAA standards you are able to apply to Air Traffic Control hiring panels. I worked hard and completed the 2yr degree in just over a year with a 3.8 cumulative GPA and a perfect score on the FAA aptitude test. I spent money on tuition, room and board to do so, it wasn’t terribly expensive but expensive nonetheless.

In 2012, the FAA scrubbed the group I was eligible for. Then in fiscal year 2013, the FAA instituted a hiring freeze. They hiring panels are now open to the general public, but CTI students will not get preference, effectively making my degree worthless.

That there is exponentially more competition and no way to stand out of the stack is daunting to say the least.

So now, I have a worthless degree and if I have to go back to school the only degrees I am interested in are  mainly focused around STEM career fields.

I have heard estimates that 70% of new jobs in STEM fields will come from Computer Science. Coincidentally I live in Seattle, Washington which is the Forbes #1 ranked city for starting a tech career. In addition, there are 1,566 graduates each year (2yr and 4yr) for computer science but on average 2,700 new jobs requiring a BS in CS in my state each year.

However the total cost for me to finish out a BS CS degree would be roughly 27k (at 3.5% interest) total in debt for tuition/fees and 3 years of my time and I would also have to cover my living costs. That is “option A.”

“Option B” is to join the Navy as a Cryptologic Technician for Networks (6 year active duty commitment) primarily a shore based job, finish as much school as I can while in, get as many certifications toward Cyber Security that I can (CISSP, CEH etc). Apply to the Seaman to Admiral (STA-21) and hope for the best and at worst come out with 2 years of school left, significant savings in the bank, possibly veterans preference, post 9/11 GI Bill and 6 years of cyber security experience and a Top Secret Clearance.

The catch is most civilian Cyber Security jobs are in some form dependent on government contracts and funding, the total size of the career field is 1/3rd of the expected new jobs for software development in the next 10 years. In addition there is no guarantee as to where I will be stationed and what my specific duties will be. Communication security or signals analyst experience is far less useful than computer network security experience. And the ability to take classes varies where stationed. The list of possible complications is endless.

On the surface it appears that going back to school is the long term way to go because it has higher earning potential and more job prospects. Conversely the military route guarantees me “related” cyber security experience and guarantees my education/living will be paid for and the funding and ability to re-locate anywhere after my service which may prove limited considering the concentration of Cyber Security in Washington DC.

I would really appreciate your feedback/thoughts if you have the time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you!

Useless Degree Holder

Difficult Choice

In subsequent correspondence UDH stated he would only have to sign up for four years but “they really push people toward 6 year contracts”.

I would not relish the choice of becoming a debt slave or joining the navy. I certainly would not fit in.

And I wonder how many do not really fit in, but select that option anyway.

The pressure to join the service must be intense on some folks who see no other realistic option of getting a college education.

Not to make light of this difficult choice, I do have a musical tribute.

In The Navy – The Village People

Mike “Mish” Shedlock