University degrees, the (Artificial) Intelligence Revolution and the 40-hour workweek



Personal Due Diligence (PDD) works with families to vet their assumptions about choosing and paying for post-secondary education. Using the University of Toronto as a benchmark, four years in a bachelor’s programme can cost $40,000 in tuition, fees and compulsory expenses. Those assumptions have to do with what parents consider to be the inevitability of a written offer of full-time, 40-hour-a-week work for above average wages with benefits and a comfortable, pension-funded retirement. But there will be no offer of any kind in the envelope or the cardboard tube with their child’s diploma in it.

There’s something about confronting the labour market in earnest for the first time that focuses the mind. It’s the realization that their dream job won’t be a given, and that prospective employers won’t be bowled over by their four or more years in university unless their degree is in the right place at the right time and their résumé speaks to the employer in the right way. That’s because institutions of higher learning have been handing out parchment or its equivalent for over 4000 years.

There’s something else that should be focusing the mind: the items on the list below that explain how the traditional one job/one employee/one employer model is being disrupted as over 6 million Canadians work at precarious jobs. This according to Deloitte and the Human Resources Professionals Association.  Their report says that we’re now in the midst of the (Artificial) Intelligence Revolution and the gig economy.

  1. Automate This! The future of work in an artificially intelligent world — CBC Radio One    
  2. What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages — McKinsey & Company
  3. Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent — The New York Times
  4. The coming of the ‘gig economy’: a threat to European workers? — EU-Logos Athéna
  5. The Intelligence Revolution: Future-proofing Canada’s workforce — Deloitte/HRPA
  6. Are graduates good value for money? — Times Higher Education
  7. Number of Universities — CSIC
  8. A Rare Joint Interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Bill Gates — Wall Street Journal
  9. Prepare for the Digital Health Revolution — FORTUNE
  10. Global Economy’s Stubborn Reality: Plenty of Work, Not Enough Pay — The New York Times
  11. Temp work growth is ‘alarming’ and changes are coming — Toronto Star
  12. Are we up to the job of rescuing work? — Toronto Star
  13. This Company’s Robots Are Making Everything—and Reshaping the World — Bloomberg
  14. Subsidising coal production is a really bad idea — The Economist
  15. Quarterly Report on Household Debt And CreditFederal Reserve Bank of New York

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said recently, “Technological displacement is a real issue. There will be new kinds of jobs. Without the technological breakthroughs, we’re not going to have enough growth, and that’s not going to be good for anybody.” There are permanent, 40-hour-a-week jobs with benefits and pensions to be had and employers are creating new ones every day.

Enrollment in the world’s 26,368 universities is expected to reach 262 million by 2025. Screening software will reject 90% of applicants before hiring managers ever see their résumés because the name of the game is give the customers what they want. Employers are customers and applicants are the product. That’s value proposition territory and PDD ensures its clients understand precisely what that means, how to articulate it through their résumé and how to use that résumé because the approach works. It’s the essence of professional self-promotion.

Since most applications are e-mailed, please click here and scroll down to Society & Media to see what e-mail traffic looks like from the recipient’s point of view. We can only guess at how much of it has résumés attached, but the volumes are large enough that 75% of employers use applicant management systems to deal with them.

Business as usual in the labour market is no longer business as usual. Parents can prepare their children for: (1) permanent, full-time, 40-hour work with benefits and pension; or (2) work that’s irregular, part-time, outsourced, automated and contract.

I was an executive recruiter for over 25 years. In 25 annual interview skills workshops at a university in the Greater Toronto Area I saw nothing to suggest that their students were being prepared to understand the pressure under which managers operate and how they deal with it. That includes ongoing fine-tuning of their respective organizations. In 15 years as a transition counselling consultant, I led job search workshops and group sessions in how to carry out dignified, compassionate and respectful 5-minute severance notification meetings as part of that fine-tuning. In each of 2100 such meetings I was told why the employee was being let go. Half of them claimed that they “never saw it coming.” They’d been told that it could happen: they just didn’t think it would happen to them.

Avoiding outcomes like those is why PDD is in business. The managers who conducted those meetings considered that those 2100 employees weren’t pulling their weight. That made them expendable. This is the world as it is, not as it was. What follows is how we help our clients deal with it.

Two Programmes

PDD 1: Pre-University

This fixed-length programme is built around 4 questions. It begins no later than two years before high school graduation:

  • What kind of work does your child want to do?
  • What education does it call for, how much will it cost and who will be paying for it?
  • What market intelligence have you included in your business case that proves that the work will exist and that your child will qualify for it?
  • If your Plan A proves not to be viable, what’s your Plan B?

Parents and their young people participate together for an hour once a month for 24 months. They’ll receive instruction in how to test-drive and stress-test their original assumptions using the most current market intelligence available. We’ll evaluate the quality of the work they do on projects we’ll assign to them at each session. Final decisions about what their children will study, where and why will be up to them.

PDD 2: Adult

This variable length, transition counselling and job search programme is for clients with a minimum of 2 years of working experience. We’ll address but not be limited to:

  • Their employment objectives
  • Work history
  • Job search
  • Research
    • Résumé preparation
    • Interview skills
    • Networking
    • Social media and internet resources

To learn about the PDD process, please click here. For bios of the people of PDD, please click here. Click on the ‘88 Must-read articles… and counting’ tab at the top of this screen for insights into the relationship between work and higher education.

These are life-shaping decisions that touch all of us. The due diligence they deserve starts with a no-charge, exploratory telephone call or e-mail.


F. Neil Morris

905 273 9880

skype: fnmorris