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In Virtue/Vice, Dr. Christine B. Whelan blogs about news, books, scientific and psychological research and her general musings about virtue and vice in our everyday lives.


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October 26th, 2010

Solutions for Underemployment: Future-Oriented Education


future-oriented-flashA Gallup poll finds that those without a high-school diploma are 50% more likely to be underemployed than those with more education. Among those without a high-school diploma 36% are unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work, compared with about 20% of all Americans.

A focus on education, the Gallup folks conclude, is the answer:

The existence of such a large pool of less-educated workers who are underemployed presents the U.S. with both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to find a way to re-create job opportunities more rapidly than now projected so the nation doesn’t create a permanent underclass of willing, but less-educated workers who can’t find a job. The opportunity is for government and industry to find a way to use this lack of job options to help Americans become better educated now — when the opportunity cost is low — so better-educated workers are available when the economy needs them going forward. Perhaps the best jobs program would be an educational opportunity program.

In a general sense, I agree — education (especially early childhood educational opportunities) is the solution to so many problems. But we’re also looking at diverging demographics of Americans-some of whom are future-oriented and others who are not.

Being future-oriented means being willing to sacrifice a bit now for a larger gain later. It isn’t a personally trait as much as it’s a product of social class and upbringing. Schools that help students set achievable smaller goals-offering rewards along the way-will have a higher success rate getting student to college and into full-time employment. Indeed, researchers find that when students value a future goal (like getting into college, or achieving a particular life purpose) and are able to set up subgoals to help them get there (like getting good grades and volunteering at a workplace to learn more about a career path) they are more likely to succeed.

Being future-oriented is about taking steps to discover our life purpose. If we can instill that in our children and young-adults as we educate them, when the job market expands once more, we’ll have a very well-prepared and eager workforce.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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