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The Degree Dilemma: Education vs. Employability in a Dynamic Job Market

CAREERSThe Degree Dilemma: Education vs. Employability in a Dynamic Job Market

The dynamically changing world requires flexibility, including in the context of education and career path formation. Although completing a degree is not always necessary for a specific job, higher education allows one to broaden knowledge and develop key competencies for a given area. However, obtaining a diploma does not guarantee professional success in the studied field, and the choice of major often turns out to be less than ideal only upon entering the job market. According to a study by Hays Poland, only 68% of specialists and managers work or have worked in an area related to their field of study.

Despite years of business and educational institutions tightening cooperation, these actions still seem insufficient. There is a lack of synergy between the two entities that could better align the education system with the real needs of the job market.

As a result, graduates leaving university often lack sufficient practical skills or cannot translate knowledge into a business context, which makes it difficult for them to start their careers. Additionally, there is the shock of confronting the reality of working in a particular industry versus the expectations.

“Some young people only realize after completing their studies and several job attempts that a certain profession is not suitable for them, offers low wages, or does not guarantee a prospective career path. Others, while still in education, gain experience in a profession unrelated to their field of study. Many of them decide to complete their education and obtain higher education but without plans for professional development in that area,” comments Justyna Chmielewska, Director at Hays Poland.

STUDIES DO NOT GUARANTEE PROSPECTS?

The times when completing a degree was one of the important requirements for employers are gone. Aside from professions where access is regulated by law, in a growing number of professions, higher education is no longer key. Currently, having specific competencies – including managerial, IT, or sales skills – industry experience, and universal “soft” abilities are far more valuable.

Nevertheless, higher education still enjoys considerable interest among young people. The problem is that it does not always facilitate their career start or forces them to reevaluate their chosen path. The latest Hays Poland survey conducted in March among nearly 1200 specialists and managers shows that 32% of them do not work or have never worked in the area they studied.

What causes this situation? The largest percentage of respondents from this group – 38% – indicates that there are not enough job offers in the market within their field of study. This can be interpreted in two ways. On one hand, the market may not show such a high demand for certain professions anymore, as they do not meet the current needs. On the other hand, the problem might not be the quantity but the quality of available offers. Truly attractive career opportunities may be few, and competition among candidates very high.

Another reason for the insufficient number of job offers in a given sector could be a completely different situation: “Some fields of study may be so overcrowded that the supply of graduates – and thus potential candidates for jobs in that area – significantly exceeds market demand. As a result, among the hundreds of young people entering the job market every year, some do not find an adequate opportunity for employment. They often decide to either develop in a different profession close to their education or try to find a temporary solution. However, practice shows that such solutions often lead to a permanent change in career path,” observes Justyna Chmielewska from Hays Poland.

One in four professionals also declared that the chosen path does not guarantee good enough earnings and prospects to continue development in that direction. The most promising fields of study are often cited as IT and modern technologies, robotics and automation, digital marketing, and renewable energy sources. However, due to the high market demand for experts in these areas, it is possible that these fields will soon be oversaturated.

Another 20% of respondents stated that they do not work in their profession due to a loss of interest in their previous area of study. The reasons for this situation can be found, among other things, in insufficient career guidance at the high school level, and even in the last years of primary school. Meanwhile, it is crucial in building self-awareness and making wise decisions by young people.

“Currently, after choosing a field of study, there is little room for changing the educational path. Young people often absorb knowledge following the program and passing subjects that require rote learning. There is a lack of time for creative work, reflection, analysis of strengths and weaknesses, and exploring one’s interests,” adds Justyna Chmielewska.

NEED FOR CHANGE

As the survey responses show, a diploma alone is not enough. To effectively find oneself in a given position, specific skills are also necessary, which in practice should be developed during studies. Therefore, employers still prefer when an employee or candidate has higher education, as it is perceived as a guarantee of having certain theoretical knowledge and attitudes, increasing the chance of success at the workplace.

However, 17% of Hays survey respondents admitted that they did not acquire sufficient skills during their studies to work

in their profession. The problem is serious, as in such a rapidly changing reality, the challenge is not only to educate with current competency needs in mind but, above all, for the future.

“Education tailored to future challenges should focus on strengthening soft skills among students and fostering an attitude open to continuous development, as well as creating contexts in which they can demonstrate their talents, natural abilities, and critical thinking. Regular group collaboration, which will be useful in almost any job, will also be invaluable,” notes Justyna Chmielewska.

No wonder there is increasing talk of Education 4.0. This concept assumes that education must be specialized, practical, and tailored to market requirements. For this to be possible, educational institutions should closely cooperate with businesses – organize training and lectures, enter into agreements for internship opportunities, and promote specific industries and positions.

Why is it worth focusing on such cooperation? Most professionals with work experience consistent with their field of study argue it with interests related to that area. Financial issues or practical matters, such as a large number of job offers, are much further down the list. The potential and desire for development are there and waiting to be utilized. The condition for success, however, is changing the perception of studies and the direction of education.

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