Lancaster University

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Mismanagement of Graduate Talent

03/29/2004 10:29:55

The demand for people with high skills in the economy has been seriously over estimated, according to new research from Lancaster University's 6* rated Management School. Drawing on the results of a major Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) research project a new book by Anthony Hesketh (LUMS) and Phil Brown (Cardiff University), The Mismanagement of Talent: Employability and Jobs in the Knowledge Economy, examines in clinical detail the experiences of those looking for, and those giving out, new jobs in the knowledge economy.

The research was featured on the front page of the Times on Monday 29th March.,,2-1055289,00.html.

The researchers examined all 145m jobs in the US Economy and the 28 million jobs comprising the UK economy in 2000. Only 1 in 3 workers in the UK could be said to be knowledge workers (a label given to workers with high levels of skills and often equated with graduates). In the US, the globe’s archetypal knowledge-based economy, the news is even worse: just 20% of those actively working in the US economy are knowledge workers. Moreover, things are not going to improve.

“We have tended to think that there has been an explosion in the number of jobs requiring knowledge workers. In reality the situation is that what growth there has been, has in fact been sluggish. Lower skilled jobs (e.g. those in routine and low skilled jobs) have expanded at far faster rates than knowledge worker jobs," says Dr Hesketh.

The authors have even worse news. Not only does their analysis reveal that the knowledge economy is much smaller than previously thought, it is not set to expand. Brown & Hesketh’s analysis of the US projections until 2010 anticipates a mere 2% increase in the proportionate share of knowledge workers. They view the UK government’s recent claim, that 80% of the 1.7 million jobs to be created in the UK economy will require those with graduate qualifications, with extreme scepticism.

“We are already seeing evidence of this stalling,” commented Dr Hesketh. “According to the US projections, roughly 200,000 jobs should be created each month for the economy to grow at the rate projected. The actual number of jobs added to the total in December 2003 was a mere 1,000. This is what the American economists are alluding to when they talk of the jobless recovery. If there is an explosion in the demand from organizations for high value-adding human resources, it isn’t showing up in the data from the US or the UK.”

But it is in the UK where the omens of The Mismanagement of Talent are at their most foreboding-and topical. There are currently over 1.5 million students in the UK’s higher education system. With approximately 400,000 graduates entering the labour market each year, Brown & Hesketh estimate there to be “at the very most” around 62,000 designated graduate jobs available from those household name organizations with whom graduates expect to be working upon graduation. But as the Mismanagement of Talent points out:

“A university degree is not enough to make one employable as credentials do no more than permit entry into the competition for tough-entry jobs rather than entry into the winner’s enclose.”

For additional links - The Lancaster University Management School home page:

Dr Hesketh's personal page: