Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Declining Value of the College Degree Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The students who graduate from college today emerge from a self indulgent cocoon — college was all about them, their interests, and their dreams. Post college is a period of discovery about the stark reality of real life, commerce, and responsibility. I suppose, in many respects, this is the way it was for us old dudes 30 years ago.

The difference today is the broken promise of the Bachelors Degree — it entitles few to a career, or even a job. There are increasingly fewer jobs for young and old. Instead, workers must approach the workplace as an auction or barter for their services. They must be constantly on the hunt for new relationships, new skills, and new opportunities.

For the older worker, this has been an acknowledged trend for a number of decades which has spurred entrepreneurship. Mid career execs leave the corporate world by choice or by termination and then must reinvent themselves. I was one of those corporate refugees nearly ten years ago. I had soured of the politics and BS. I chose to focus my efforts on things that truly mattered and on activities that were satisfying.

College grads have been told a story about how a college degree will empower them to get a job. All the classroom cases and examples are about Procter and Gamble, Coca-Cola, and IBM (By the way, a quick internet search will show that these firms are downsized and have recently cut compensation of existing workers by up to 20%). By and large,  the University is clueless about the new normal workplace.

While I totally buy into the value proposition of education, college does little to prepare the student for this new workplace. Students have yet to learn the value of networking, referrals, public speaking, and basic business etiquette. Many also struggle with basic skills such writing, reading, etc. That is yet another problem but still relevant.

Young workers are confused due to the inaccurate messages that they recieved from parents and educators. While the declining value of a college degree is an observed long term trend, it has been largely ignored. Couple that decline with our recent historic recession (soon to be written as so) and you have a bunch of young workers who must quickly adapt.

The bright side of the story is that the young may be more adaptable than us old dudes. They may have fewer biases and have not lived as long with the out-of-date “scripts” about life and careers and jobs. This new story needs to be told, the work scripts need to be rewritten, education must be reinvented, and the game needs to be re-branded.

John Bradley Jackson

Top Dog

The BirdDog Group

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