The value of PhDs for low-tech labour markets

2nd International Conference on Clusters and Industrial Districts - CLUSTERING 2017
Academic organisations do not have the resources to hire the increasing number of PhD graduates that universities are producing each year. Non-academic organisations are thus becoming an important and growing employment niche for these highly skilled and qualified individuals. However, little is currently known about how and why PhDs are valued by labour markets, or how PhDs are contributing to the contextualised problems and challenges of non-academic organisations. This article aims to overcome these knowledge gaps by investigating the role of PhD holders as change agents in non-academic labour markets. To accomplish this research objective, the study is focused on interactions between the highly skilled PhD-trained workforce and labour markets in a specific geographical and sectoral setting. Based on a literature review, the theoretical framework will be developed. Subsequently, a case study will provide a qualitative assessment of a specific labour market reality in which PhD holders enter non-academic organisations. According to the European Innovation Scoreboard, Spain is a moderate innovator. This country will be the geographical and institutional setting for conducting the fieldwork. The selected industry to be studied is textiles, as representative of low-tech industries. The case study contains new analytical dimensions and evidences and, hence, will illustrate the complex nature of what is a global concern regarding the supply of highly skilled human capital and labour market outcomes, even in low-tech contexts. Primary data was collected by conducting twenty interviews with PhD holders from varied disciplines, along with managers of non-academic organisations in the selected industry. The results aim to inspire a more informed and critical dialogue regarding the value and utility of PhD holders in non-academic labour markets within the frame of the so-called ‘knowledge society’.
Francisco Javier Ortega-Colomer