Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Economy, Musings, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology, Thoughts on Economics > The Delusions, Bullshit and Lies about Vocational Training and STEM Jobs

The Delusions, Bullshit and Lies about Vocational Training and STEM Jobs

One of the more popular responses to younger people complaining about the lack of decent job opportunities goes something like this-

“You should have gone into some trade or taken some vocational training.There are lots of well-paying blue-collar jobs that kids like you don’t want to do because you think they are beneath you.. yadayada.”

Another related one goes something like this-

“You should have done a major in some STEM discipline rather than some liberal pinko commie artsy subject. Look at those hard-working Asians.. yadayada “

These points, or some variation therefof are the staple responses of old farts, baby boomers and disturbingly enough some of the older gen-Xers (born before 1970). In my opinion, both types of responses are based in some combination of cognitive dissonance, lies, bullshit and wishful thinking. Here is why..

Let us look at the viability of entering vocational training, trades and similar blue-collar jobs. While some jobs in those areas still pay well, there are some serious issues with recommending them to everybody.

1a. More entrants into any of these vocations will depress wages. You must be aware that jobs related to building houses, meat-packing and even agriculture once paid OK wages. But is that still true? Could it be that an influx of Mexicans and immigrants in these occupations have depressed wages? Would more people entering these vocations not have a similar effect on wages?

1b. Technological changes can quickly render entire vocations utterly worthless. Even simple technological changes and innovations can reduce the demand for occupations or make them redundant. How often do you have to fix newer cars as compared to those built-in the 1970s? Do we still set newspaper type by playing around with hot lead and molds? How many people want to repair their computers nowadays as compared to even 10 years ago?

1c. Then there is the tricky question of how people and businesses can pay for more well-paid tradesmen when the amount of money in general circulation is shrinking. It is kinda hard to pay more people better wages when your own incomes are going down and the economy is shrinking.

1d. What about pensions, disability and money after retirement? As many of you know, tradesmen-type jobs become much harder to do after a certain age as they are physical- unlike desk jobs. Given that the income stream for most tradesmen is not constant how do you intend to provide for these people after they can no longer work in their occupations?

Now let us talk about STEM jobs..

2a. Most STEM jobs require aptitude and a significant investment in university education, typically 5 years or more. However the majority of them pay less than 70-80k/ year (typically 50-70k/ year). Today many of the people entering these fields have large student loans. Combine that with poor job security and difficulty in getting another job in the same general area. Is it still a good deal?

2b. Outsourcing, and H1B-type “insourcing”, is huge in STEM areas. What are going to do if the Harvard educated sociopaths who run your company decide to replace you with someone in (or from) China and India? Face it- they don’t care about the long-term or even the medium-term. It is all about the next four quarters and they don’t care about the quality of your replacement as long as he or she does not cause a large problem within one year (four quarters).

2c. An even worse situation occurs if they simply outsource the entire facility to China or India- as is increasingly the case. Remember they don’t care about anything that won’t hurt their gerrymandered figures for the next 4 quarters. What are you gonna do with your investment in STEM education and a huge student debt?

2d. Have you noticed that employers want exact skill fits but are unwilling to even help with basic employee training? Let us say your STEM degree was in an area in demand 5 years ago. Is that still the case? Would you be hired to do something that was similar, but not a perfect match for the advertised job? What would occur if the business focus of your employer changed?

2e. Then there is the issue of age discrimination. By the time you have put in 5 or more years in University + a few years in the area you are already in your 30s. Even if you are very competent and productive, few STEM-heavy companies now want to hire employees past their mid 40s or early 50s. What are you going to do? It is unlikely that you will have tons of money saved aside after paying off your student loans and white picket fence lifestyle- never mind kids. Can you really retrain? and more importantly- would you do that after knowing how businesses operate in neo-liberal economies?

Do you NOW see the fallacy in suggesting vocational training and careers in STEM?

What do you think? Comments?

  1. February 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    hahahaha,

    all those eggheads who used to make fun of me are now strapped with student debt and I wasn’t even smart enough to get into their programs….

    the high price of elitism….

  2. Columnist
    February 25, 2012 at 2:33 am

    I was an idiot that did STEM.

  3. hans
    February 25, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Heh, the good ole STEM & “Gas, Wasser, Scheisse” boondoggles(what we Germans call the vocational fields-”Gas, Water, Shit”).

    STEM is a VERY hot topic over here too, as we´re still one of the very small number of Western countries who actually produce something. But it´s exactly the same problem as analyzed here.
    Everybody wants specific arcane knowledge of their own little shitty product, nobody but who worked for years in that company can possibly know.
    And the reason they need “the new blood” is because they don´t want to pay the actually experienced older guys their due wages. Yet they want them already experienced and working their asses of for scraps.

    Fuck-them-all.

    And the G.W.S. over here is about done too, thanks to the Bruxelles child fuckers and their European Soviet opening up everything to the eastern Europeans.

    BTW here all those STEMs don´t have these ridiculous levels of student loan-debt, but they still are fucked because they´re either getting outsourced left&right or outright fired.

    Leaving temp agencies as the only means of reemployment because of the incompetency of state run unemployment agencies and rampant outright nepotism. So they actually pay double taxes on their wages. The cuntry AND to the TEMP agency.

  4. LP 999
    February 25, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Good reading, I always stop by…

    I’m increasingly skeptical of those who send job seekers here, there and yonder to apply for employment (fake jobs ads). As a person who was geared towards self-employed, we must strive to become or maintain a self sufficient status.

    A/c, HVAC, plumbing, security, welding, rolling steel, coal…etc., are fine industries for men to endeavor towards. That is, if they like that kind of work. Sadly self-employment is replaced by donning a wal-mart smock…

    2d. American refuse to hire their own Americans. Yet they complain about the low tax rolls, immigration and other incoherence issues – excuses for not to hire.

    The Boomers dominate many industries. Such as college sales reps or advisors, can only promote more college (debt, wasted time) with a questionable future ahead. Or a future that points to unemployability.

    These fed edu loans are unable to be discharged in BK. Why? It is a huge, huge scam reaching $1 to $2 trillion in the next bust. We won’t be able to absorb the unmployed for years to come. Those with dinged credit are sold the excuse….Dinged credit is a joke and a farce. What of the futures of Gen X, Gen Y have to worry aobut? The credit for the zombie-vampiric banks are dinged and no one cares about it. See, its one set of laws for you and I and a separate set of laws for the rest.

    Deathklok wasn’t so wrong when they screamed, ‘go fourth and die.; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKcBNysVl-I

    Kidding.

  5. Matt Strictland
    February 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Spot on AD. The worst part of the whole thing is that it is suicidal. The psychopaths that run todays businesses are either so malevolent or so stupid that they are dragging their entire societies future down with them

    Baring reform there are many possible outcomes for this none of which are pleasant, the best case scenario is that said society ceases to exists and becomes much less industrialized as no one is around to demand the crap they make. Thats the best case !

    The worst cases scenarios are far more sanguine.

  6. ThousandMileMargin
    February 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    Here in Australia plumbing, electrical and bulding trades have provided excellent wages for blue collar workers for many years. Probably something to do with the fact that we’ve had a 25 year housing boom.
    Now that our housing bubble seems to have popped (late 2010) I expected we’ll see a lot of that work dry up.

    Australia (and Canada, and Brazil, and Germany, and Japan) has been propped up by exports to China but with the Chinese bubble looking shaky I think we can expect a slowdown in global trade. This is going to lead to less demand for engineers and scientists globally. There will simply be less construction, fewer exports, less product development work, less money for research. There is going to be a global wave of downsizing. And I don’t expect a recovery any time soon.
    We may never see a “recovery” as such, because there are permanent structual changes being created by globalization and automation. We may end up with a permanent excess of labour, including skilled labour, that depresses wages indefinitely.

    • P Ray
      February 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm

      “There will simply be less construction, fewer exports, less product development work, less money for research.”
      I figure the pie is simply being shared between fewer people. With cliques, old boys’ clubs and employment laws designed to keep outsiders off balance and underpaid.
      I’m not going to confuse fewer people considered employable with the idea that HR suddenly got smarter … they simply realise that the more people that work with them, the greater the chance of a future competitor down the road.
      Which is why there is a sudden increase in the amount of people wanting to be managers: it’s becoming harder to work your way up the employment ladder, as a skilled person has to deal with more liars and middle managers (sometimes they’re one and the same).

  7. S. Thompson
    February 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I got a useless biotechnology degree under the pretext that the ‘Knowledge Economy’ was just around the corner. Each relevant vacancy advertised has about 20 requirements-miss one and you might as well not bother applying. Hell, even if you meet all HR’s demands, you still don’t get a reply. It doesn’t matter if the skill can be taught to a guy with an IQ less than 90 in a few hours, you MUST have previous experience.

    @Hans: I’m genuinely surprised that state-run institutions in Germany are incompetent and that any nepotism at all exists. I always thought it was one of the remaining few countries where virtues efficiency, honesty and career progression in a meritocratic (without resorting to back-stabbing, cheating, etc.) manner were still maintained. It would appear we are all truly fucked for the future.

    • hans
      February 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Oh it is a meritocracy alright, if you (aka your family) knows the right people or if your of the right social strata.
      Otherwise perfectly fine (STEM)educated 2nd to 3rd generation immigrants (yes even in the 3rd generation you´re an immigrant over here) wouldn´t leave the country to find almost immediate employ “back home”.

      As for the bureaucratic incompetence, it´s the same reason as in every other western “cuntry”, the skyrocketing female quota.
      The private sector has somewhat successfully avoided the worst ravages of US style feminism, for now. But the state sector has been hit full force, especially in predominantly socialist(more akin to US democrats) voting counties.

  8. Medan
    February 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Well, I cant talk for other countrys but in Germany you´ll be better of with a college degree. Unemployment rate for graduates is around 2 – 3 % (for decades now) and net live income for STEM subjects is positve (= you´ll earn more than then the costs for college + oportunity costs, in most cases a lot more). But we are in dire need of skilled workers too and they earn quite good.
    In my former job with a big company I saw how hard it can be to hire people, often they just dont fit what you need for the position, but just as often your company wont fit their expectiations.
    @Hans, I cant see were Stem´s were outsourced in any meaningfull number. Most employers are happy to get even half decent graduates. You got sources for your claims?

    In any case of hardship, no matter what it might be (jobwise), whats a better preparation than a STEM degree? I try very hard to see anyone here proposing something better and thats indicating one thing

    • hans
      February 27, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Well congrats then for getting lucky and not ending up in a field easily offloaded to cheaper eastern European or Indian/Chinese dependencies.

      As for that awesome preparation a STEM degree supposedly poses.
      Hardly anybody manages to finish these in the alloted time, especially with the new Bachelor/Masters “school” degrees. And on top of that the skills taught are mostly outdated by the time a lucky degree recipient finally manages to emerge.

      Companies find it so hard to hire people, because they are totally unwilling to train potential employees just lacking that special knowledge in some arcane doodat they use almost exclusively. Only in the most dire situation will they stoop so low, if there is a half competent manager around..

      • P Ray
        February 28, 2012 at 4:36 am

        Quite a lot of managers in IT are MBAs without first degrees.
        That’s because they like to promise other people that “you can solve any problem” …
        while laying the solving on their staff, without previously consulting them.

        You mean “companies find it so hard to hire people who will look up to an incompetent, lying, unqualified, narcissistic manager”

  9. Matt Strictland
    February 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Medan, the problem is that there is no “better” . The job as we know it is gone for good and what will happen is the powerful will keep gobbling everything up till hey collapse the society they live in, are voted/forced out or in some places exterminated.

    Which will happen where and 1st is anyones guess though I’d suggest Japan and Singapore will simply cease to function from lack of people.

    And note we’ve had decades to prepares, actually nearly a century given we knew this was an issue probably in the 1930′s

    Assuming we couldn’t see the issue (understandable as energy was cheap) we had Jeremy Rifkin writing about this topic back in 1995. Thats modern tech after oil shocks , not machine age stuff so the excuses won’t fly.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_Work

    The fix is 7 fold

    #1 Economic nationalism

    #2 An end to immigration and a reversal of same

    #3 Work sharing

    #4 Guaranteed minimum income

    #5 Smarter energy policy

    #6 A much smaller foreign policy footprint

    #7 Less of a focus on big and more of a focus on less efficient small business

    This combined with social reforms would allow a decent continuance of society. However as they are radical and allow neither the LIEberals or the Conservatives both of whom hate the general populace to screw with people, they’ll never happen.

    • Columnist
      February 27, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      Guaranteed inoome and flat tax is the way to go. Maybe only flat tax above a certain income, to get the Middle Class on board.

  10. S. Thompson
    February 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Human Resources/ Recruitment Consultancies like to pretend that their there is very complicated process in finding someone who is the ‘Perfect Job Fit’. Of course, there is no such thing, but this fantasy construct serves its purpose in justifying their bloated wages and bullshit existence. There is probably a link between the growth of the HR dept and the decline of the host company. Their job could easily be replaced by a simple word-matching algorithm that scans CVs. But no, they have convinced the ‘Management Scientists’ that the ‘Human element’ is required or else the company will go under without them.

    • P Ray
      February 28, 2012 at 4:37 am

      HR people have no grasp of the technologies their companies use, and are often schmoozing sycophants who cannot be trusted.
      No matter what your grievance with the company, HR can’t be trusted – always consult a lawyer, manpower or union representative.
      HR is on the side of the company. ALWAYS.

  11. Matt Strictland
    February 28, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Columnist :
    Guaranteed inoome and flat tax is the way to go. Maybe only flat tax above a certain income, to get the Middle Class on board.

    I couldn’t agree more. However doing this means a zero or near zero immigration policy or making sure that you only get the GMI after say18 years of citizenship. It also should mean an end to all public pensions as well.

    If it were up to be I’d do

    12k + health care as GMI, 80% can be taken while incarcerated for more than 6 months after conviction otherwise its untouchable

    you pay 25% in taxes to 100k 50% on everything after that to I dunno 3 million with 75% after that to 12 million and 90 or 99% after that No deductions and a stiff inheritance tax.

    I am fine with an annual COLA (this keeps pressure to keep inflation low) and even a different metric with say a 12k minimum with an annual adjustment based on actual cost of living at 12k (say its 24k in DC, the numbers would bump up by the difference.

    However baring a takeover of the country it will never happen.

  12. Shawn
    March 1, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Control for IQ and the earning gap disappears between Blacks & Whites. IQ is destiny & discrimination is a myth; America is for the most part a meritocracy.

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2012/02/class-brains-and-income.html#disqus_thread

  13. jeremy
    March 7, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Your arguments for not attending a vocational school are a little absurd. Im not sure what your stating these arguments in opposistion of. Tech colleges are an excellent way to earn a carreer driven education. Most likely you will earn more money from a job attending a tech college and learn more useful practical knowledge than any university, community college or job without training. Lets address your arguments – ” 1a. More entrants into any of these vocations will depress wages. “. This is unlikely all around but this is very unlikely to the extent that it it would actually effect you in a major way. If it were to happen it would do so in the same way as any job you got without training or training fro a university, community college etc. Next – ” 1b. Technological change can quickly render entire vocations utterly worthless.” Again this is very unlikely to happen for a number of reasons, but if it did it would affect every one with no training, non school training, or any type of education. The reasons its unlikely to happen is because the schools teach you past, current and near future technologies. The tech your trained on will be used for years to come and when a company decides to slowly integrate new technology into their business they will almost always have on the job training or pay for your few classes to get up to date. Also to have an entire newly discovered field replace an old field is highly unlikely. Next is ” 1c. Then there is the tricky question of how people and businesses can pay for more well-paid tradesmen when the amount of money in general circulation is shrinking.” Once again, if this were to happen this would happen to everyone. Not just tech graduates, but if you have a good job, which you are likely to have, you would only be stuck at a wage with longer intervals between raises.If the recession got horrible and you got laid off or the company went under, whatever the case may be you are no more likely with a tech college education than the guy with no college or university educated. Lastly – ” 1d. What about pensions, disability and money after retirement? As many of you know, tradesmen-type jobs become much harder to do after a certain age as they are physical- unlike desk jobs.” Many technical/vocational college programs are desk related. The others are say middle ground like for example nursing /massage/bartender. The other end of the spectrum, say construction/mechanics, something like that is physically wearing. But again those jobs take up less than a third of these programs and your just as likely to experience this with no training. Jobs are also hard at any age and people who stand and talk all day or at a desk with say a university degree will be just as likely to have provlems with their backs or arthritis in their hands or carpel tunnel in their wrists. You have a much better chance on getting a good job and making more money going to tech school than you do from a community college, no training and even a university. The minority of people from a university who use their degrees in a creative smart way or a specific degree in something major will make more money. It also cost alot more, takes alot more time, smarts, and energy and commitment. Point is Absollutly tech schools are not a bad idea and absolutly they are no more likely of anything else at the points made by the author.

  1. March 28, 2012 at 1:00 am

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