Texas Workforce Commission Economist Richard C. Froeschle shared his insights on unemployment and the economy recently at the McKinney Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Luncheon.
Froeschle, the Director of the Labor Market and Career Information Department of the Texas Workforce Commission, managed to make a potentially dry subject interesting with a good sense of humor and easy-to-understand insights on the economy.
One of Froeschle’s key messages was that nearly a quarter of our unemployment problem is due to a fundamental mismatch between the skills of unemployed workers and the skill sets employers need. Almost 4 million unemployed workers either have the wrong training for today’s job market or they live in an area where jobs are not being created. Fixing this “structural unemployment” is critical, he said.
“There are jobs out there, but the people who are looking for those jobs just don’t have the right skills,” he said.
“About 85 percent of everyone who comes to the Texas Workforce Commission looking for a job is looking for one that requires less than an associate’s degree,” said Froeschle. “But if I look at online job postings, almost 53 percent of them require an associate’s degree or more. The challenge to our workforce system is to be able to take these people and move them into these jobs. This is a huge challenge.”
He also drew a contrast between today’s highest paying jobs for new college graduates vs. the degrees being sought at Texas colleges.
“We think that if we just tell our young people that there are really high paying jobs out there with bachelor’s degrees, surely we can get them to major in those fields,” he says. But the numbers show a mismatch there as well, with the highest paying jobs right out of college with a bachelor’s degree predominantly in not-so-popular science, engineering and math.
Following are two Top 10 lists that illustrate Froeschle’s point:
Top 10: Highest paying jobs right out of college with a bachelor’s degree:
1) petroleum engineering, 2) quality control/safety technicians, 3) chemical engineering, 4) engineering-related technologies, 5) ocean engineering, 6) registered nursing/nursing administration, 7) electrical engineering, 8) mechanical engineering, 9) mathematics and computer science, 10) construction engineering
Top 10: College majors of 2010 Texas graduates:
1) multi-/Interdisciplinary studies (includes teachers), 2) business administration, 3) psychology, 4) nursing, 5) biology, 6) health and physical fitness, 7) finance, 8) accounting, 9) marketing, 10) criminal justice.
Froeschle said fixing structural unemployment is a critical challenge for those in education and workforce development.
It is also a dramatic insight into why our education system from kindergarten through college needs to be even more focused on making American students more competitive in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“The recession we are in now, if we want to fix it, our policies need to be directed toward fixing structural unemployment issues,” he said.
“What happens if you spend $1 trillion in the economy and the unemployment rate goes up?” he said. “We have a phenomenon going on here where the way we have responded so far is assuming only that we are demand deficient, when in fact some of us believe there are significant components of structural unemployment, between skill mismatch and location mismatch, so that you have a lot of people who – I don’t care how much you stimulate the economy – they just don’t have the skills to match those jobs.”
Pictured above are McKinney Chamber President Jodi Ann LaFreniere with Texas Workforce Commission Economist Richard C. Froeschle.