AUT says people with degrees are increasingly in demand, but that students need to train to "move flexibly" in the employment market.
AUT vice-chancellor Derek McCormack told TV ONE's Breakfast today that students are equipping themselves with the right skills and education but it is hard to get training to match what is needed in the labour market.
"We can train up a lot of nurses this year, and then in five years' time when they've all graduated and in their first years of work we find out we've over supplied - or we've under supplied still", he said.
McCormack said it is key for students to make sure they train in a way that allows them to work in several types of jobs.
"If you want to go into training you want to make sure your training gives you that kind of base, so you can move flexibly in the employment market when changes happen," he said.
McCormack said law is an example of a degree that prepares students for different jobs, but only about 40% of law graduates go into the legal profession.
"The rest of them go into all sorts of other jobs like business and management and administration that a law degree has prepared them for, because law is a particular way of thinking, which is very useful," he said.
"They're good at communication, they're good at writing and setting out arguments and analysing arguments, so they're very useful in all sorts of fields of employment."
McCormack said people with degrees are expected to be in high demand in the future, with other qualifications including trades being in less demand.
Job seekers speak out
The demand might be there, but two jobseekers told Breakfast they cannot find work after months of trying.
Carolin Jentzsch, a University of Otago graduate with a Masters in speech therapy, said she has even offered her services for free.
"I've applied for a lot of jobs, everywhere&there's just nothing out there," she said.
Jentzsch said the Ministry of Education used to be a main employer of speech therapists, and used to run a new graduate programme where they take on around 30 graduates a year.
"This year it's not been the case, they've had sort of three or four new graduates, so that leaves so many of us without a job."
Jentzsch, who has even started looking for jobs in Australia, said she thought a masters would make it easier for her to get a job.
"That's why I did my masters - I thought I had to specialize - so I specialized, and I still can't find a job," she said.
"We're coming out of university, we've got the latest research skills, the latest knowledge, we know effective methods - when it comes to therapy - and it's not being tapped into, I think."
Peter Ross has a degree in computer science and a diploma in quantity surveying.
He told Breakfast it is hard to compete with job seekers who have more experience, even at entry level.
"Every job you apply for you are being outclassed by people with two or three years' experience and it's not enough to have just done the courses. You need to have already been in the industry to get the entry level job in the industry."
He said he does not plan to study again.
"I'll just end up with a Masters in the same position and a bigger debt, so my plan is to keep hunting out jobs."
Ross said he will work any angle he can to get his foot in the