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What Underemployment Means to College Graduates

Written by Angela Finding

Underemployment is defined as “the condition in which people in a labor force are employed at less than full-time or at jobs inadequate with respect to their training, skills, or economic needs.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

According to new research on underemployment, produced by Strada Education Network and Burning Glass Technologies, college graduates who start out underemployed in their first jobs are likely to stay that way 10 years later, with women more likely to be impacted by underemployment than men. The research found the following:

  • Four in 10 college graduates are underemployed in their first job;
  • two-thirds of these graduates will still be underemployed five years later; and
  • of those workers underemployed at five years, three-quarters will still be underemployed at the 10-year mark. (Burning Glass Technologies, 2018)

A college graduate’s first job is a critical decision and often sets the path of their career for years to come. According to the study on underemployment, an overwhelming number of workers who were appropriately employed in their first job continued to hold positions that matched their levels of education five years later (87%). Almost all of those appropriately employed at the five-year mark were still at that level 10 years later (91%). (Burning Glass Technologies, 2018)

How does this all tie into internships? Internships provide college students with real-world experience, professional connections, mentorship, and the ability to develop and improve soft skills. A quality internship can increase the likelihood of landing a first job that is in line with their skill-set and economic needs and reduce the risk of underemployment.

Internships are critical to a student’s career path. Approximately 67% of interns received a full-time job offer in 2017, with about 76% accepting the offer. Many employers state that their internship programs are key in finding and hiring entry-level talent.

An important element to this is quality internships. An internship must provide real work experience relevant to the student’s career goals, provide mentorship and supervision, fair compensation, and other valuable well-rounded experiences. To learn more about starting or growing an internship program, visit the Internship Central: Guide for Employers.

For students, having the most valuable and successful internship experience as possible is essential to a potential job offer. Learn more about making the most of your internship from the perspective of past interns who have completed a successful internship experience.

Learn more about internships and how to effectively manage an internship program by visiting the GCP’s Internship Central platform by clicking here

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