Robots, Resource Booms, and Baristas: Trying to Predict the Future Job Market for University Graduates

The media is full of stories of technological wizardry transforming the workplace. From robots to problem-solving software that can replace experts, technological change is reducing the demand for some workers while raising the demand for others. Until recently, we believed that these changes would imply continually growing demand for university graduates. But we will discuss evidence that demand for university graduates in jobs that require cognitive skills has been declining in the US since about 2000, and that something similar has been happening in the UK. The result is that more university graduates have been “cascading” down through the occupation structure, ending up trapped in barista type jobs – though it is still better to have a university degree than not. In Canada, the evidence on demand for university grads is more mixed, with the resource boom shifting our job market away from US trends. David Green, professor in the Vancouver School of Economics at UBC, leads a discussion about what this all means for the future prospects of university graduates.

Recorded May 24, 2014 at UBC Alumni Weekend in Vancouver, BC.