FILE THIS UNDER: IT’S ABOUT TIME: Levels of Education

Employers are starting to get realistic in what was believed to be a necessity during the Great Recession, 2008 – 2016.  During that time, when so many were out of work, large companies directed their human resource departments to require high levels of education in order to quality for a job.  I’m a former university professor and a former university dean, and I have to say that that’s the most ridiculous job requirement to come down the pike in a long time.

Today’s university degrees do almost nothing to ensure that a person is ready and equipped to do a job – these degree programs are mostly filled with fluff, not actual content, and are simply the requirements that the students have to meet to acquire the degree.  There is very little of quality that is appropriate for the workforce that is received in a university degree today.  The reason that the degrees of today are so useless is that they’ve been filled with coursework that is devised by professors wanting to keep their jobs, rather than interested in preparing the youth of today to actively engage in useful employment.  Remember, I was there at the center of the machinations of the university – and I watched as useless course after useless course was approved, just as a way to provide employment for tenured professors that the universities can’t figure out how to get rid of.  (One really useful solution would be to get rid of tenure, but that’s a discussion for another day.)  Today, we’re focusing on the fact that companies are finally starting to look at individual qualities and capabilities and are planning on training and actually educating good candidates to fulfill the company’s job needs.  It’s about time – for years, we’ve been hearing companies lament that when they hire high school graduates, they have no skills that are useful to the workforce, and the company is forced to start a “skilling program” just to fill their quota of workers.  The same has been true of post-high school degrees for many years, as well.  The problem is that in today’s education programs – K-12 through bachelor’s programs – the students aren’t taught to think for themselves.  One might assume that thinking for oneself comes naturally to the human race, but it doesn’t – not unless the young people have had the advantage of an exceptional early home environment.  And that happens in about ten in 100 cases.  So, the other 90 percent distinctly needs help in developing their thinking skills.  Once those skills are in place, the “educated” individual can then move into ever-more challenging jobs and assignments and can, in essence, figure things out at every step along the way. Thereby, coming to be seen as a valued employee.  The best programs in K-12 these days in teaching students how to think are the so-called “industrial arts” programs (a term usually talked about disparagingly), wherein students get both “book learning,” as well as useful hands-on experiences to support the didactic approach.  Most of these programs are found in technical schools/programs and are, thus, never advantaged to the average student.  Thus, a lot to work on in our current educational programs, but a very good first start that corporations are beginning to look for talent and quality rather than the spurious designators of degrees, as qualifying the individual for work.

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