Least and Most Educated Americans View the Future Differently

Americans at every level of education worry about job security and job opportunities. Global competition and rapid technological advancements keep even the most skilled workers on their toes. However, workers who haven’t been to college appear to be more apprehensive than the most educated Americans, according to a new survey.

The Burson-Marsteller survey, Making it in America: The View from America, reveals the following opinions regarding the country’s future:

H.S. or less College or more
The U.S. economy is headed in the right direction 30% 38%
I feel educated in the right skills to succeed 42% 71%
Machines could replace my job in 5 years 30% 14%
Technology will make overall employment better 5 years from now 45% 55%
Technology will make job satisfaction better 5 years from now 55% 65%
Technology will make wages/salaries better 49% 57%

 

The concerns of Americans with a high-school diploma or less are not baseless. Case in point: robotics is projected to create half a million new jobs by 2020, but they won’t be assembly line or unloading jobs. These will be the types of jobs that require workers to learn new skills.

As far as learning or polishing skills, the most educated workers aren’t free of concerns either. In fact, a new report reveals that the skills gap is costing U.S. companies close to $1 million a year.

The BursonMarsteller report also reveals that the most educated Americans are also more likely to agree with business leaders on the following:

H.S. or less College or more Business leaders
High tech industry is most likely to create jobs in the next 5 years 27% 48% 52%
Infrastructure is the most important public policy issue for job creation 15% 31% 58%
Reading comprehension and/or critical thinking is most important for success in U.S.-based manufacturing jobs of the future 13% 23% 34%

 

U.S. tech employment has already reached 7.3 million, and there’s still a high demand for tech workers, especially in such areas as cybersecurity. But new technology also creates other jobs in sales, marketing, and related areas.

Regardless, a Gallup survey reveals that Americans still believe manufacturing is the key to job creation, and twice as many chose this answer over infrastructure building as the most important way to create jobs in the U.S., so perhaps it should come as no surprise that while 58% of business leaders view infrastructure as critical  to job creation, only 15% of those with a high school diploma or less share this view.

Explaining the divide between least and most educated Americans

Kenneth Matos, vice president of research at Life Meets Work, tells GoodCall®, “The differences in perspective are because we each describe the economy in terms of our opportunities within it.”

He explains, “We are currently in a new technological revolution where certain jobs are being done more efficiently or effectively by machines, and, as in the past, this has resulted in the ending of those jobs and the creation of new ones requiring more specialized skills.”

While the country relies on colleges and employee training programs, Matos says many companies have either discontinued this type of training or shifted the focus toward other areas, such as compliance or managerial training.

“Workers with less education, especially older ones with caregiving responsibilities or debts like a mortgage, are locked out of the new job markets because they often cannot afford to return to college.” Even though more schooling could help them earn more, Matos says they cannot afford to stop working to go back to school.  “In addition, employers use education as a first-round qualifier for jobs, quickly culling applicants without a degree from any search process.”

Sara Goldrick-Rab, professor of higher education policy and sociology at Temple University, and the author of “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream,” tells GoodCall®, “I wish they had asked people who started college but didn’t finish, as they feel especially hopeless.”

The hopeless feeling is another wedge between the least and most educated Americans.

“The lack of hope is devastating – it diminishes energy to create changes that will rebuild this society,” Goldrick-Rab says. “The differences are due to the benefit of preparation – this world is far less scary if you have the education to prepare you for it.”