Points to keep in mind in an increasingly competitive world
Deck: Leigh McLaughlin, Staff Writer
Everyone’s ‘boat’ floats a little differently, varied strokes suit different folks and we all walk down slightly different paths. However, in an increasingly competitive world, it is important to acquaint oneself with perspectives on the topic of education, from people whose interests are not vested in you as a client. Being a student means that you are simultaneously a client. It also means you are investing in your future. I could use a metaphor here, but I think you get the picture.
To be brief, college is to hands on skills what university is to theory. Trades are stigmatized to a lesser extent, the traditional working roles overlap and industries evolve and emerge. University, college, or ‘the school of hard knocks’; which choice is the right choice when considering the realities of our increasingly competitive world?
In this increasingly competitive and rapidly changing world … it takes some strategy and passion to project yourself somewhere and then find yourself there down the road
“To have aim is to act with meaning” –Dewey
Successful entrepreneur David Goldman has some constructive advice on educational pursuits in this severe job climate. He suggests that you do your research and keep your eyes open to the realities of the job market. Financial needs are a reality and so, when considering your prospects in terms of post- secondary education: delay, delay, delay.
“Delay starting school until you know what you want to do. Or, go to college and get a degree that is more practical” says David. He took a few business related courses at Seneca but learned the lessons he needed to get where he wanted to go through life and increasingly concerted experience. This entrepreneurial thing isn’t such a bad idea either, given that entry level is, well, entry level and creating a job for oneself can be very exciting, and in David’s case, rewarding.
In this increasingly competitive and rapidly changing world, job market, environment, whatever you want to call this bubble that we all want to thrive in, it takes some strategy and passion to project yourself somewhere and then find yourself there down the road. In the end though, it has a little something to do with luck. Though the odds are not in your favour if tailor fitting an industry to your skills, the entrepreneurial pull or a recession or a structural push tend to be strong, especially in an economic downturn.
Most of us are already well down our respective paths, but don’t be discouraged! We are not born with accounting, business and people skills, though some may have an affinity. “Based on 2008 data, earnings of university graduates were 70% higher on average than graduates of high school or trade/vocational programs in Canada”, according to Stats Canada. That said, it’s a good idea to weigh out the pros and cons of any prospective decision. Our value systems and goals are complex networks in and of themselves after all. Besides, projected earnings aren’t everything as the stats would have you believe, but they ARE something. Education is an investment, and like most investments, there are risks. “You need to know what you want to do before starting school, because the likelihood of a $12/hr job post degree is high. Not to mention being riddled with debt” explains David.
According to stats Canada 2000, people between the ages of 20-24 earn less with college qualifications, and even less with University qualifications than those in the trades. However, the long term stats tell a very familiar story, that of University grads being represented by lines on an income horizontal much longer than College grads and those in the trades (which are neck-in-neck, a substantial distance from those with high school or less).
“The bent given by education will determine all that follows” –Socrates
Elizabeth Plashkes, successful businessperson and active member of GTA arts and community, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from U of T. She suggests a less job-focused path. “The outcome of a good liberal arts education is a citizen who has a grasp on the history of our world, the breadth of current and past cultures, and the range of political and economic systems in play now and recently. Such a citizen is a good decision maker, a decent researcher and a literate and responsible member of our society.”
A little history of academia: it dates back to 400 B.C, Plato dubbed this brainchild, this centralized transfer of information, the ‘academy’.
Today, “the successful university graduate is able to seek opportunities in higher learning, or find employment in a field that meets their needs and interests. Importantly, the exposure to the world through learning can develop altruism and empathy in graduates who, through volunteerism or career, can contribute to the welfare of society here or abroad” Elizabeth comments.
Her solution to rising tuition and economic instability? “I would support fewer years, and a longer school year, better grant programs and a requisite year of volunteering to build skills in recent graduates, and build strength in our society” Elizabeth explains.
“Practice is the best of all instructors” – Publilius Syrus
Sylvie Greeniaus is a seasoned registered massage therapist and artist. “Everyone wants to be an engineer, meanwhile there are a lack of skilled people to actually build anything” she laments. Sylvie expresses the need for citizens to pursue an education that allows them to contribute to the system that paid for half of said education. But, of course, you know that domestic education is heavily subsidized in Canada.
What you may not know is that the ‘bachelor’s degree’ becomes a broadly accepted, systematized ‘thing’ just after WW1, before which the pre-requisites for earning a degree were of lesser consequence than what the students deem practical choices. Today, it appears fewer practical choices are being made.
“According to a survey conducted in 2009, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Canadian employers stated that they had not managed to find ‘the right talent to fill jobs.’ Of the 10 jobs most difficult to fill, skilled trades came first” says the Ernst and Young report “Managing Today’s Global Workforce”. Despite the fact that the trades are less stigmatized than they have been in the past, “there is the idea that knowledge is in some way more important as a product” according to
With the commodification (buying and selling) of education, and growing population, every qualification seems to mean less and less. The basic math is: more people have degrees, so they come to mean less. This reality is also a basic tenet of supply and demand. Fewer people have skills in the trades, and there is a surplus of jobs, despite the ‘knowledge economy’ idea. Buildings still need to be built, pipes still need fitting.
Sylvie makes another valid point with regards to an unfortunate phenomenon. “Getting qualification after qualification in search of your ‘true calling’ can render you overqualified” says Sylvie. Employers may not want to hire you because your education (or experience for that matter) warrants a higher salary. You should also note that you are not likely to stay with the job you dream about all through your undergrad career. Employers are intimidated by someone who is more qualified than them; generally, they want a relative degree of complaisance.
Who will come if you do not build it?
“I am still learning.” -Michelangelo
We all have unique ways of looking at the world, and the route you take in terms of education will help to shape and reshape these views. Your choice also depends heavily on your priorities, so weigh out your situation and values. Take a look at some .gov stats in relation to the job market, gain experience as you go, and take the time to look at the big AND the small picture. You can never go wrong asking a few questions (or many!) and doing a little research. Most of us are presumably on the way, whether our projections for the future are concrete or abstract, academic or vocational. My boat floats in academic, soon to be vocational waters, an ocean to a stream if you will. I’m paddling against the current, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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