Young worker’s challenge #4: overqualification
Being rejected from a job because you are “too qualified” is a bit of a tricky one to handle. Sometimes employers give this as a reason because, truthfully, they want to pay you less (with qualifications comes skills, comes better pay – at least in theory) but the issue isn’t just confined to CVs and job interviews.
You’re considered to be overqualified for your job if you don’t have the opportunity to use the skills you gained through education or training. As more and more people get degrees or equivalent, levels of overqualification in the labour market have shot through the roof. There has been a huge expansion in graduates entering the job market, but no similar increase in highly skilled, high knowledge or technical jobs in a lot of sectors to match.
Overqualification is particularly high among young people, being the demographic who tend to have entered the workforce the most recently. Although our analysis showed that Britain’s young core workers were less likely to have a degree level qualification than all young people overall, we also found that they were far from unqualified. Indeed, nearly two-thirds (65.6 %) had qualifications at Level 3 or above (A-level or equivalent). Britain’s young core workers aren’t unqualified – so why do they tend to work in jobs with lower pay, precarious contracts and few opportunities to progress?
Overqualification impacts non-graduates too. As well as making roles requiring a degree more competitive, the increase in graduates entering the job market has changed the jobs available to non-graduates – often forcing them to take the lower skilled work that is available. As a result, some employers require a degree as the minimum qualification, as the standards get higher and the competition gets fiercer. However these same roles wouldn’t have necessarily required a degree before, and it is not always obviously critical to the role.
However, there are still a large number of jobs that require no or low entry qualifications. With fewer ‘high skilled’ jobs, and more graduates competing for them, there’s also been an influx of fairly qualified workers into low skilled jobs – such as Britain’s young core workers. The impact of this is that 60% of workers in elementary level jobs report being over-qualified, compared to less than 20% of those in managerial positions. This has significant impacts on levels of job satisfaction as well as a long-term scarring effect on wage levels.
Unions must support Britain’s young core workers to reach their potential. They must encourage employers to harness the diversity of skills that young workers bring to their workplaces and ensure they have opportunities to apply what they have learnt in a meaningful way.
Britain’s young core workers are the voices that are missing from our movement. They are aspirational, dynamic and want to be successful. But they are often trapped in low income work without the opportunity to progress or achieve what they want.
We’ve identified ten challenges facing Britain’s young core workers, and challenge unions to meet them. Check back here for the next challenge and read the full report.