Money for Nothing and Your Chicks for Free

This morning, one of the first tweets that I noticed was an interview from CTV’s Canada AM on the jobs available to new graduates. The interview was with Tara Talbot, vice-president of human resources at Workopolis. Tara suggests that the “top 5 hot jobs” are (note that these are the top jobs that – dramatic pause – did not exist 10 years ago):

  1. Community manager
  2. Mobile application developer
  3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialist
  4. Sustainability Expert
  5. Elder-Care Services Co-Ordinator

I had to Google every single one of these jobs titles, as I’m clearly not “in the know” enough to comprehend what, exactly, a relevant job description might include. I’m also not sure what they mean by “hot” jobs. I presume that it means they are in demand, pay well, and have excellent long-term prospects for graduates. But let’s skip ahead, to the Workopolis list of “top 10 jobs” (which I assume to mean the most populous or available jobs in demand right now):

  1. Administrative assistant
  2. Customer service representative
  3. Merchandiser
  4. Personal banking officer trainee
  5. Physiotherapist
  6. Receptionist
  7. Registered nurse
  8. Sales manager trainee
  9. Sales representative
  10. Technician assistant

As I watched the list unfold, I heard thousands of  university graduates slapping their foreheads. “Oh,” they were saying in unison, “so I didn’t need my lofty university degree to get a job. I could have gone to college, paid no exorbitant university fees, and become a receptionist and then ‘worked my way up’ in the company through good, old-fashioned hard work.”

Now there are obviously a thousand arguments suggesting why university education is a valuable asset to an individual’s life. This is, in fact, a very valued asset in Oregon, where a progressive socialist program called “Pay It Forward” endeavors to allow youth to attend university at no cost to them. The cost of the program is returned over the working life of the student, based on their income (3% of income is taken off of 4-year program graduates) (ibid). The beauty of this program, as I see it, is that your university education receives from you only what you can give or have received in return for your education; it does not saddle you with years of debt unequal to your pay, nor does it punish you in a harsh, recession-struck financial climate.

Consequently, if I were to graduate from my enlightening university program and be earning the salary of a retail merchandiser ($27,203), as suggested by the Workopolis list, I would be giving only what I could afford back into the system. By the way, that income of $27,000 is just at the poverty line for a family of 3 people, and is a pittance compared to the average wage in Canada and the top 1% of earners.

So there is a dual problem here; 1) that the job market is heavily weighted towards superfluous, shifting, and vague positions like “community manager” and, 2) that the most available jobs right now are in, essentially, retail and services. The rest of the economy is left barren, and those of us who now struggle under the debt of a university education, the disapproval of our parents, the jeering of our lucky/rich/well-connected peers, and poor job prospects must ask ourselves; was there, and will there ever be again, a world in which you got your ‘money for nothing and your chicks for free’*?

*As an addendum, I should apologize for my reference to this song; I realize that the lyrics have been criticized as containing messages of sexism, racism, and homophobia.