Ask the Expert: Todd Knoop on jobs outlook

What’s the job outlook for college graduates over the next two to four years? Todd-Knoop---faculty-expertHere’s what Cornell College’s David Joyce Professor of Economics and Business Todd Knoop says:

Graduates of the Class of 2018 headed into a job market with the lowest unemployment rates in 17 years (only 3.8%) and higher starting salaries (at over $20/hour for college graduates). The recent strong growth in the U.S. portends good things for college graduates over the next few years.

All of this said, today’s college graduates are entering a job market that is evolving rapidly and is likely to be much different in a few years. Information and communication technology (ICT) and globalization have reduced the cost of moving physical goods, moving knowledge, and moving people (because of telepresence and telerobotics). As a result, American college graduates not only face stiffer competition from global workers, they face competition from technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence.

So what do today’s college graduates need to be successful in the job markets of the future? The well-paying jobs will be those that cannot easily be replaced by a robot or an artificial intelligence machine, and they are jobs that are not repeatable in the sense that they require new activities each and every day. The jobs of tomorrow are jobs that require people to think critically and creatively, to communicate effectively, to synthesize diverse information, to have hard-skills in quantitative analysis, but also soft-skills in human relations and team building.

As a result, in my opinion, the focus on “the value of a college education” is misplaced. Today’s graduates should be more focused on the “the value of the skills that they can develop in college,” specifically skills that will allow them to become creative workers who are able to do jobs that are not routine and cannot be regularized. For those college graduates, the job market is as strong as it has ever been. But for those college graduates who want to do the same thing every day, year after year, I am afraid they will find that a college degree will not afford them the same kind of job and income security that existed 50 years ago.