Saturday, December 22, 2007

Can't Outsource the Plumber

It's true that certain types of high skilled service jobs don't really face foreign competition.

Even college grads might want to consider blue-collar careers. Last year, because U.S. News readers tend to be college educated, we included only careers that typically require at least a bachelor's degree. This year we've added four careers that don't. Why? More and more students are graduating from college at the same time that employers are offshoring more professional jobs. So, many holders of a bachelor's degree are having trouble finding jobs that require college-graduate skills. Meanwhile, society has been telling high school students that college is the way, so there's an accelerating shortage of skilled people in jobs that don't require college. (Why else do you think you have to pay $100 an hour for a plumber?)

It's somewhat heretical to say, but I'm one of those who thinks that too many people go to college, though it may be individually rational for them to do so given the signaling nature of it. That is, going to college doesn't really transform people into better works for a lot of jobs, but employers require a college education because it's how people signal they aren't a "complete loser"* who couldn't even manage to graduate from college.

*To be clear, I don't think one needs to graduate from college to avoid loserdom. That's my whole point! It's just that in our society it's become an entrance ticket to a lot of careers even when the education you get in college isn't really training for those careers.