Europe: Colleges are ‘unemployment factories’

In France, where universities are derided as “unemployment factories,” Xavier Niel has started a computer academy, reports the New York Times. Would-be programmers, who  pay no tuition and will earn no degree, have to be smart. They don’t have to be high school graduates.

The school breaks with the often-rigid methods and philosophy of the government-run education system wherever it can, and Mr. Niel believes it will produce graduates who are more innovative, more employable, more diverse and more useful to the stagnant French economy as a result.

. . . Despite a national jobless rate of nearly 11 percent, as many as 60,000 computer coding jobs are thought to be vacant in France, the government says, for lack of qualified candidates.

A telecom billionaire, Niel completed high school but not college, reports the Times.

Via Edububble, who also links to another Times‘ story on Europe’s overeducated, underemployed young people. Youth unemployment rates for those 24 and younger are 56 percent in Spain, 57 percent in Greece, 40 percent in Italy, 37 percent in Portugal and 28 percent in Ireland, reports the Times. The story starts in Madrid.

Alba Méndez, a 24-year-old with a master’s degree in sociology, sprang out of bed nervously one recent morning, carefully put on makeup and styled her hair. Her thin hands trembled as she clutched her résumé on her way out of the tiny room where a friend allows her to stay rent free.

She had an interview that day for a job at a supermarket.

Méndez has worked without pay for a sandwich chain and a luxury hotel. Unpaid internships are common.

“To gain experience, she was making plans to form a cooperative to study social issues like gender equality and sell reports to public institutions,” reports the Times.  (Good luck with that.)

In the supermarket interview, she learned most other applicants also had high-level university degrees. Méndez was offered a temporary job stocking grocery shelves and running a cash register. The monthly salary of €800 (about $1,080) is just enough to avoid moving back home with her parents.

“Be careful what you wish for,” advises Edububble. “Sure it would be nice if education cost less and there was little or no student debt, but then there would be even more smarty pants with nothing to do.”

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  1. Diane Ravitch in one of her posts refers to the problem of college graduates unable to get jobs for which a college degree is relevant. She then calls for increased public subsidies for college education! Subsidizing college education is what got us into this mess in the first place.

  2. Too right. If student loans were handled by private insurers who were allowed to use due diligence in approving loans, such outfits would be unlikely to approve loans for kids whose SAT/ACT scores didn’t show college readiness and/or whose intended majors

    • Sorry – this is posting before I hit the button. whose majors are unlikely to lead to a job enabling repayment. They should also be allowed to require copies of all course registrations and grades – just like a lot of draft boards used to do. (Weak grades and/or a sociology or theater major? Welcome to the Army) Race and ethnicity and other “diversity” factors should not be permitted to interfere with such due diligence. Of course, I am dreaming. Sigh

  3. Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain?

    Doesn’t anyone remember the PIIGS?

    The Euro is responsible, not so much education. The New York Times should have made at least a passing mention of the Euro crisis in this article.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      The Mediterranean countries have ridged labor markets which was true prior to the introduction of the Euro. France in particular has a significant mismatch between degrees earned and those actually needed. The financial crisis only exacerbated the situation. The Euro and the EU allows working across borders. There are 250,000 French currently working in London.

  4. The concept of computer academies are actually quite idiotic, given that most bugs in software (per SANS) are usually due to mistakes made in coding over the last 30 years (I know, I fix a bunch of this stuff weekly).

    To assume that kids who have NO interest in learning will gravitate towards a computer academy where they MIGHT actually be able to handle programming in a couple of years might be worthwhile, but employers look for a lot of other things besides being brilliant at coding (soft skills, oral and written communications, time management, and understanding deadlines are at the top of things most employers want from high school or college graduates).