Realigning Higher Education and Employment Opportunity II

Earlier in Penley on Education and Energy, I discussed potential means to address global youth unemployment from The Laureate Summit on Youth & Jobs in Europe.  The Summit was held in Madrid Spain, and the highlight for many was the appearance and comments by two world leaders – Prince Felipe of Spain and former US President Bill Clinton, reported El Mundo.  As a participant in the Summit, I agree.

Said Prince Felipe, “Governments and public institutions have the responsibility of initiating policies that favor the creation of stable employment.”  In a style that many of us in America have observed before in Mr. Clinton, he pointed out that youth represent too much human capital and too much production capacity not to break out of our current severe youth unemployment pattern.

Reflecting the role played by partnerships between colleges and employers in identifying needed knowledge and skills for graduates (See earlier blog), Mr. Clinton urged that we focus on microeconomics rather than macroeconomics for solutions to youth unemployment.  We need to examine the employment picture industry by industry, he said, forecasting the likely growth in employment in the various industries.  Echoing the words that I have heard from Nobel Laureate and Chicago economist Gary Becker, Mr. Clinton pointed to the role of human capital.  As a major source of human capital, it is up to colleges and universities to clarify relevant and employable career paths with the incorporation of appropriate knowledge and skills for graduates whose goal it is to have jobs in those industries that are forecast for growth.

President Clinton’s emphasis on microeconomics included his urging that colleges and universities accept that there will be slowdowns with the necessity of sufficient flexibility for moving to where there is work.  While he did not say explicitly where there was needed flexibility, it is evident that he was referring to those of us in higher education that must redesign courses and curricula if the challenge of youth unemployment is to be addressed.

While the Summit did not solve youth unemployment, it did offer direction.  Bringing together representatives of education, business and government was the best approach to beginning a process to address youth unemployment.  The problem of youth unemployment is complex. As Mr. Clinton said, “Complex arguments do not lend themselves to creative solutions by one mind.”

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