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Our View: ‘Over-qualified’ graduates should look for better jobs

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Since independence, Cypriots have put great value in university education. Parents would put all their savings into their children’s university education, often going without for this purpose, while youngsters would often hold a full-time job to pay for their studies. A university degree was considered the path to a better standard of living – good job, high earning potential and social status – and parents felt obliged to offer their children this life-changing opportunity.

Higher education is still greatly valued, but with standards of living having risen and the number of university places increasing both at home and abroad, the advantage provided by a degree is not so large because there is now much more competition for graduate jobs. This has led to the popularity of the post-graduate degree which the majority of students take in the hope it would give them an advantage in the job market. Some even do a couple of master’s degrees in the belief it would help land a well-paid career.

It is in this context that education ministry’s study, which found that half of Cypriot graduates consider themselves ‘over-qualified’ or ‘over-educated’ for their jobs, should be seen. The study is part of a wider programme on “Addressing skills mismatch between education and the labour market” that has identified “skills mismatch” as a “major concern in Cyprus”. The study quoted the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, which said the challenge was not just to improve skill levels, but to align individuals with appropriate skills to suitable jobs.

These seem rather vague concepts. Are skills not acquired in a job? Someone may have a master’s degree and a PhD and still fail to develop the skills needed for a job. Thus, talk of ensuring individuals with appropriate skills are ‘aligned’ to suitable jobs sounds like a fantasy, a concept by technocrats that only have a theoretical understanding of the job market. It would make more sense to say someone is over-qualified or over-educated for a job, but this would be nothing new. Nor are many qualifications and high academic achievements a guarantee that a graduate will do a job well – university degrees do not measure an individual’s drive, initiative, willingness to take responsibility, be a team player and motivate others. These are qualities that are shown on the job and not necessarily linked to a degree.

As for the graduates, who consider themselves over-qualified or over-educated for the job they are employed to do, surely they should look for alternative employment. This is the only answer to the so-called “skills mismatch”, which the EU technocrats seem to believe are the cause of “increasing difficulties for individuals transitioning from education to the labour market, to find jobs matching their potential”.

For decades, the labour market has been doing a pretty good job matching individuals to jobs they can do and if some entitled graduates feel they are over-skilled or over-qualified for a job it is their problem and not that of policy-makers.

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