The Looming Dilemma in EducationBy Ron Slee
Article Date: 08-01-2010
Copyright(C) 2010 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
The cultural myth that four-year college is the only path for students has left us lagging in technical skills.
The notion that a four -year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should choose other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.
Could it be that we are flooding the struggling job market with over qualified degree holders? Now don’t get me wrong; a university education is a good thing. I believe in education. But there are gaps in our skills in the current workforce and coming generations. We can see severe shortages in many technical disciplines, not the least of which is technicians.
Most parents today want their children to go to University, often without even knowing what they want them to study. They compare unemployment rates of 4.9 (college grads) versus 10.8 (high school only grads). And they look at the fact that university graduates will make $1 million more in earnings over their lifetimes than someone with just a high school diploma. But they’re forgetting to evaluate the merits of a technical school education or a two-year junior college.
Perhaps, at long last, we are finally asking the right questions. What educational skills are appropriate for someone entering the workforce? The era of a general liberal arts degree being sufficient for the workforce is passé today, isn’t it? Ohio University Economics Professor Richard Vedder says that “credential inflation” is producing a stream of graduates around the country who are, frankly, unqualified for the workplace.
Martin Scaglione, president and CEO of Work Force Development for ACT, the Iowa-based not-for-profit best known for its college entrance exam, suggested nothing short of a new definition for educational success. He advocates “certification as the new education currency – documentation of skills as opposed to mastering curriculum.” As a former University educator I couldn’t agree more. We are focused too heavily on mastering curriculum at all levels of learning prior to post graduate degrees. It would be a wonderful change if we started maintaining an “inventory of skills” – certified skills.
Skills for Older Generations
The next concern is for older workers. Peter Drucker suggested in the 1990s that one of the fastest growth businesses was going to be adult re-education. This has become rather self-evident in the passing years hasn’t it? I spoke about the rebound in lost jobs from slowdowns at the Summit in San Antonio – how in the early 80s’ slowdown it took 12 months for all lost jobs to be recovered; in the late 80s to early 90s it took 23 months; in the Y2K slowdown it took 31 months and this time the estimate is it will take 60 months to recover all of the jobs lost in the financial meltdown. Not a pretty picture.
What skills are required today? What are the skills that cannot be outsourced today? What skills are lacking today? The list is reasonably short. In our industry there is a serious need for technicians, for skilled parts personnel, and for skilled sales personnel.
How are these job functions going to be filled? With education – certified skills education.
For example, take a look at the webinars we are creating for parts and service management and operating personnel with the AED Foundation. We had the first one for parts in May and the first one for service is in September. There will be eight individual webinars each for parts and service. We will bring out the first Internet-based, self-study program in the fourth quarter. This is the third leg on the continuous education path we are creating for AED members. We continue to grow the classroom training segment, now with more than 12 different two-day classes available. Everything is pointing to the continuous enhancement of personnel skills in our industry.
I have talked before about the “depth chart,” which is similar to a sports farm system or developmental league. You need to have one in place in your business to address skills training for rookies and veterans alike. It’s the only way you can continue to provide seamless customer service to your market.
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