Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

John Wilkins on Higher Education vs. Professional Training

John Wilkins of Evolving Thoughts has a post up about credential inflation and the tendency to create university programs to support careers which is the more interesting for the family history examples it provides:
When my grandfather was a boy of 14, he started a career as a fireman that led to him being the chief of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade in the 1930s. While he did this he gained an engineer’s certificate, but he was working, earning and building a career. He was not unusual at the beginning of the 20th century.

My father, who managed to get himself ejected from the MMFB for conducting unauthorised and explosive chemistry experiments in the West Melbourne station, worked in radio from the age of 16. He never got a post-secondary qualification so far as I can discover. I left school at 16, and worked in a newspaper before I became a graphic artist and printer (without qualifications). I could have become a journalist if I had shown the determination, through a cadetship at the Herald and Weekly Times, even without matriculating.

However, now, students are expected to complete not year 10, or even 12, but a Bachelor’s degree, in order to even enter the professional workforce, and to have at least a Master’s degree to get ahead. This means that the very earliest one can start earning in full is around 24, a full decade later than my grandfather’s day, and if you continue to study, you might not begin to earn properly and start to even pay off your education debt before you are in your 30s.
This is something I tend to grouse about myself, as I now work in circles in which MBAs a very common (My current and previous job were both advertised as "MBA strongly preferred") while I have a BA only and that in Classics not a "professional" field.

I also have to wonder how sustainable the increasing credential inflation trend is as we get into generations in many Western countries which will be smaller than the previous ones. Having an increasingly small number of workers to support retirees seems unsustainable enough, encouraging those workers to not do much of anything until their late 20s or early 30s seems like an even worse idea.


Kate said...

My husband and I were watching the video of Mike Rowe's Senate testimony, and talking about reasons for the skilled laborer shortage in the US, and this is one of the things that we pondered too (that Rowe did not mention as a factor). As more trades positions require more and more certification and degree requirements, the pool of 'qualified' workers shrinks and people are discouraged from seeking out these jobs.

It seems to me that at least in part, the shortage in skilled labor is an artificial shortage. Sort of like the doctor shortage, it is in the interests of those who already hold these positions to use trade and/or professional organizations (like unions in the case of the trades, or the AMA in the case of medical professionals) to push for more restrictions on who can compete for jobs and hours in order to maintain inflated fees.

Kate said...

(Rowe's testimony: )

Amber said...

Reminds me of how I couldn't get into many of the on campus interviews back in college, despite my experience and qualifications. I just didn't have the right degree. The ones who were less restrictive were very happy to talk to me and both gave me job offers. It was just hard to get in the door without the right degree, despite my experience.

Also makes me think of my step brother, who worked through high school and college in a chain restaurant. He knew that place inside and out and helped open and train people at new locations. But corporate wouldn't make him a mgr or even asst. Mgr because he didn't have a college degree. And then once he got one, he decided he had better things to do than work the hours required for a asst mgr at that place. I sometimes wonder if places are shooting themselves in the foot by requiring so much formal education - esp. jobs like that, with lousy hours and pay!

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

You are spot on. This is rent-seeking behavior by entrenched interests. It's led me to enter college late in life (receiving three different subsidies, none of which is a loan).