THE fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
— Carl Sandburg
My parents’ belief in the connection between a university degree, a full-time, permanent job with benefits, and the good life was almost mystical. Like so many other parents, they sacrificed to make sure that I had my shot at the brass ring.
This is what was not waiting for me when I graduated from McGill: worldwide university enrollment that will reach 204 million by 2020. More than 23,000 universities around the world from which to choose. One million full-time students in Canada. Fifty-seven percent of jobs in Canada that are now considered precarious (as in: not permanent; not full-time; no benefits; other than 40 hours a week). Robots, technology, artificial intelligence and machine learning will do away with the need for humans in 40% of certain kinds of work within the next twenty years. Foreign students’ pay $45,000 a year for a four-year bachelor’s degree in Ontario.
These changes and countless others came in on little cat feet. This part of the 21st century looks the way it does because of them. Otherwise, there would have been no Tesla, no Internet, no NETFLIX, no Amazon, no drones, no self-driving vehicles, no debates at City Hall about UBER and Airbnb. And you wouldn’t be reading this.
Understanding the present and anticipating the future started when I joined IBM from McGill. However quietly change announces itself, it hints at its arrival and it always leaves tracks. The secret is to know where to find them and what to make of them. My colleagues and I have been doing precisely that for a combined total of over 120 years. Each of us specializes in a different business, but we have anticipating the future and developing strategies to deal with it in common.
Parents believe as strongly in higher education today as they ever have. So do employers, and they know precisely what they want from it. I conceived PDD to work with parents and their children to see whether how they plan to earn a living is going to be consistent with the plans of employers. We help our clients create business cases to do it—twice, once for each of two plans—just in case.
The concept dates back to 1976, a year before my daughter was born. In 1992, I compiled the results of 16 years of research into where Canada was heading. Two years before my daughter graduated from high school, the family had its first conversation about university. The compilation was on the table and formed part of our deliberations. We repeated the process with my son three years later.
We talked, we deliberated and we debated. Each of the children arrived at their own conclusions. Both attended university, both graduated and both are thriving.
The concept became PDD. Once a month for up to two years we do with our clients what I did with my children. We space our meetings far enough apart to avoid interfering with their classwork. Pragmatism, return on investment, and risk assessment are always at the table. We assume that pre-existing assumptions might not hold and that new variables and game-changers will find their way into the equation. At the end of the process, they will have gained insights into what we mean by anticipation and what we do about it.
The global economy and the emergence of new industries and new occupations are three such game-changers. So are articles in the media like ‘Surge in temp agencies worries advocates’ (Toronto Star, July 15, 2017). Sara Mojtehedzadeh wrote: “Ontario has seen a steady growth in the number of temporary employment agencies starting up at a time when the province is seeking to enact new protections for its most vulnerable workers.” Our children qualify as vulnerable workers. So do many parents.
In 2012, as many as 300,000 undergraduates and post-graduates learned the hard way the cost of not anticipating. They were working as unpaid interns because they couldn’t find work in their chosen fields. That lesson cost $9.6 billion. Unpaid internships are still with us.
To see how heavily invested in university parents are, please visit Google Alerts and use “student debt” as your filter (be sure to omit the quotation marks) for daily reports on the subject and their consequences. You can expect to see the figure $1.3 trillion in connection with the U.S. more than once. The same applies to the 44 million Americans who owe it. You’ll also see that Americans are not alone.
PDD has already done part of your research for you. You can find it by clicking on the ‘88 Must-read Articles… and counting’ and ‘Blog’ tabs at the top of this screen.
We can start talking about brass rings with a phone call, an e-mail or a click on ‘CONTACT US’ in the upper right corner of this page.
President & Founder
PERSONAL DUE DILIGENCE