The elephant in the living room is why are so many western countries sending their offspring to university to do degrees for whcih there are either virtually no need for the skills and knowledge gleamed , or there is so much competition for jobs and the career ladder that hardly anyone gets to actually have a career where they earn more than they would as a school leaver with the same level of activity and effort.
Govbernments are convinced they need more graduates, while shcool leavers are convinced that studying something they really like will get them good grades and a ticket to something, which they have in no proper, meaningful way have researched the current of potential future job market.
In truth even if you ask many engineering graduates, they are not getting a red carpet and have to compete a lot for quite few opportunities. What there is a shortage of in engineering is a percieved shortage across the board, when in fact on the one hand it is often just very special skills and know how which are in short supply, and those often vary year to year. The reality is employers would like more graduate unemployment in engineering so they can keep wages down and get the most motivated, right fit personality types out of a pick of nerds and head strong youth.
In most all vocational degrees and a good few where there are jobs in academia because of retirals - that demographic time bomb is under way- or turn over as in teaching, then there are jobs for the top folk and also those 'hacks' who do well but also excel in the debating society or on the sportsfield. With so many Universities quite a few employers have actually become worse in choosing OxBridge graduates ahead of the plethora of first class honours graduates from the redbrick and the breezeblock universities. Take many blue chip marketing departments, they dont employ marketing graduates from 'tech' or business schools, they go for english literature and psychology graduates from Oxbridge with debating laurels on their CV.
In my day university had just been extended to about double or triple the number of undergraduates, and the drop out rate went up of course, as did the graduate unemployment rate, not to mention the longer term problem of underemployment and perceived over-qualifiction. I'd say in my day about a third of all students either ended up no better off than their new, school leaver colleagues in the great masses of underemployment, on top of another 10 to 15% who never made it through their degrees. Compared to those who took a trade via apprenticeships or the armed forces, many of my graduate and post graduate more have not faired all that well now I look through linked in.
The thing is that the conservatives either steered the country or aided and abetted the country on its way to becoming a tertiary service economy, with a fixation on owning property and rising house prices,. So people in trades have fed off thirty years now of new building and home improvements, extentsions, loft conversions, rewiring and replumbing. In other technical fields, it is often the on the ground, time served service engineers who get to keep their jobs while all those project managers, team lead, techology managers get down sized because in fact, the company lives off service and not ground breaking infrastructure and innovation.
Graduates who go into business services and banking fair much the same, and many I know are in a kind of self rationalising their middle aged lack of really making it by posting lots of photos of their kids and their reunions, while of course we all have smaller houses and less spending money in hand than our educated, unionised parents had. We are only dispossessed by our own belief that our lives would mirror our parents lives and the post war journey the UK (and US and many other countries) took post war, when a degree was a ticket to a management salary and your head above water well and truly. We became the new working class, pushing around money and presenting ideas that pushed around money while in fact we werent creating a lot of new money what so ever. That is a bitter truth. We were the delayered white collar workers who took over from the blue collar and the lower middle class became the new factory floor workers being passed over for pay rises and upskilling. The working working class, those with skills and trades, and a few in manufacturing, they did rather well out of it all, having well paid careers for decades and keeping my generation out of many opportunities simply by being in their jobs with a decade under the belt and a union on call when the downsizing and mergers came.
Like any socio economic phenomenom, it is all easy to see in retrospect. So blatantly obvious that an over supply of graduates would help fuel business growth with all that data punching, powerpoint pushing, excel graph making energy that was by in large hot air in the 90s and 00s. A few economists 'predicted' the financial crisis of 2008, but they were given for doom sayers and some only had the end of national credit card ratings as a foot note in their futurologist scenario builds. My generation went blindly in and for very many it meant that they do not enjoy the material assets and quality of life work balance their nine to five middle class parents did.
A couple of aquaintances of mine either dropped out of uni, or later in life threw in the towel and became plumbers, which may seem a bit of a well trodden cliche bound not to be a golden goose anymore, but in fact of course you can make decent cash at it, at least 33 k a year in UK spondoolics. Of those who took practical, hands on experience or non university career paths, nearly all are doing better than me and a pile of other acedemics or graduates who have worked in office jobs. Those who made it in accountancy and medcine are of course doing quite nicely, but complain of the long hours expected and the stress of work not really making up for the high salary.
I do have a few pals who were from wellish to do families who had alternative lifestyles and what have you, and they are off the radar now, or when on a re vague about what they are into, and possibly lookign to borrow some cash for a new project.
Even those who were very, very good at their non vocational, academic careers have ended up in more mundane industries - oil if they were technical, and housing if they were in other areas.
The UK stands in real danger of falling into a hole because so much of the recent economic growth has been underpinned in fact by immigration - demand for housing in particular, and labour rates from Poles in particular which enable more projects to be viable in the pyramid of investment monies going into housing constuction and redevelopment. The great ' white' hope is that these folk will evapourate away and wages will go up by a market mechanism, but in the same way as we did not really see that property was a key driver in the economy, a key money rich area to be in, and fell for the allure of University education,. The drivers for that are a rising population and rising metropolitisation, and rising wealth among retirees going rural. The latter is likely to be the only growth area, as a new blue rinse blue voting mass of baby boomers getting ready to put their slippers on and live in a cottage in the sticks. Policy on immigration is going to change a lot of things, but some businesses will not survive the period of malaise and retraining and reattituding if you like- british youth rolling up their sleeves and coming off their YouTube channels to work the land, and on building sites. Wages are going to have to go up a lot to attract them and where time served skills are needed, it is going to be a difficult period. In the back of this the Tories promise that the coutnry will still get all the talent it needs, but that stop gap policy could mean many employers dump apprenticeship schemes and opt for quota immigrant workers, or just flout the law,
Simply put, brexit is too simplistic in this 'immigrants out, jobs for our lads and lasses' and over night payrises which match the gap to property prices. High on the list of tory wishes was to remove the 48 hour working week and the employment agency directive, making working life more like insecure slavery for many hundreds of thousands of young workers in particular. However they have turned tail and offer to preserve workers rights that stand now. Right wing politicians are not to be trusted as we now know, and will have any sound bite they like if it wins today, it is forgotten tommorrow and is a necessity. They are looking at todays floating voter, who will be a different voter in six months time, so what if they are let down, we won!
Britain and to a large extent the USA are locked into another consumer and national credit mountain which may at any time, reveal itself to be weak to the core and implode as in 2008. The miracle of business confidence is being based on rolling back environmental leeshes on oil extraction and offrering more public contracts to the private sector, with a virtual blank cheque once public provision is removed from the equation. Tax cuts have worked in the past, because the upper middle class get to invest in more property and stocks like apple, while everyone else can afford bigger mortgages and consumer credit, three to five times rise for each one point rise in wages remember because loans are on a multiplier in the economy. They end up of course, paying more for the same and the next generation get less for more. The upper middle class and some of the middle middle established earners can then afford to release equity for rental property and screw the younger generation even more out of the housing market. Oh how jolly, but it all goes bang at some stage when people are using credit to pay the rent and pay for food, or when the population stops rising, stops metropolising. Then the whole house of cards can fall, and it can be small things like the subprime idiocy which bring it all down. What next, a credit upset due to brexit? Scottish Yes vote?
Self employed tradesmen seem to be always the ones who do alright, given their own health holds out or they are clever enough to hire people and become managers rather than inevitably wearing themselves out physically. There are stresses in being self employed, but as long as the money stream is there at the top, and you are getting great margins on working hours and materials, then you can do very, very well.
If you have family money to invest, then rather than a uni education why not look at buying a fishing boat after working in that ? Why not a saw mill and joinery shop? Very many graduates today are going to be leaving uni with debts as high as 50k, and then having in many careers like law, an internship year which they have to fund somehow too, probably in a big city with craxy rental prices. Mummy and daddy you see, aha, they bail out their kids by remortgaging and when they can, they leverage their business connections to get paid jobs for their over priviledged offsrping.
Hard work is a thing of the past if you just go off in any old direction via University. Take doctors, for the hours they work in their young career, the years they study, the hours they study to get a specialism or pass out as GPs then by age 35 they would be multi millionaires if they had worked in investment, real estate or as plumbers setting up a business. What do you need to succeed in business these days as an entrepreneur? A Theresa May like self belief and ability to twist and turn to meet sound bite opportunities and keep most customers, investors and idiotic employees on your journey happy most of the time, and fuck over the others.