Business cases, choices and university education


Parents have been sending their children to university for over 4000 years to position them to enjoy a better than average life. The formula works: there are now 26,368 universities worldwide. But a better than average life comes at a price and the tastes of the labour market have changed.

A 4-year bachelor’s degree can be a C$40,000 investment when you combine tuition, fees and expenses. That investment is where “better than average” begins. But it demands due diligence because of how much is riding on it, and the fact that there are no guarantees and no refunds. Based on the groundwork they lay down before they choose their academic programmes, some young people will report for their first day of full-time work shortly after graduation. Those who wait until after graduation to approach the market could spend up to a year looking for what they hope will be their first day of full-time work. This is what they’ll find:

  • In The Intelligence Revolution: Future Proofing Canada’s Workforce, Deloitte and the Human Resources Professionals Association describe the world we’re sending our children into as being in the midst of the (Artificial) Intelligence Revolution and the gig economy. Both are disrupting the traditional one job/one employee/one employer model. Over 6 million Canadians are working at precarious jobs.
  • Microsoft, Amazon and Google are spending in excess of US$12 billion each on research and development. Part of those budgets is devoted to A.I. (Artificial Intelligence). The results have already found their way into facial recognition in Apple’s iPhone X, virtual assistants such as Siri and Cortana, and self-driving vehicles like the new electric Tesla Semi Elon Musk unveiled on Nov. 17th. Orders are already on the books for those 18-wheelers. Production starts in 2019.
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said recently, “Technological displacement is a real issue. There will be new kinds of jobs. We’ll need education and re-skilling … continuous learning. Without the technological breakthroughs, we’re not going to have enough growth, and that’s not going to be good for anybody. So let’s … solve for the displacement … so that people feel they’re able to participate and contribute.
  • A New York Times article entitled Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries for Scarce A.I. Talent appeared in the Toronto Star (Nov. 11, 2017). It said, “Typical A.I. specialists, including both Ph.D.’s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock.”

With 262 million students expected to be enrolled in the world’s universities by 2025, employers have little time for what they view as “personal interest” degrees. They want graduates with the education to be productive sooner rather than later because of the pace at which business is being done, how it’s being done, and how competitive it is.

Personal Due Diligence (PDD) helps families research and vet traditional and not-so-traditional post-secondary alternatives to their first choices in higher education to deal with that kind of world. They’ll do it through the business cases we require from them for each option so that they can prove or disprove for themselves that work they consider suitable will be available following graduation. As of this moment, graduates can choose from: (1) permanent, full-time, 40-hour-a-week work with benefits and pension; or (2) precarious, part-time, outsourced, automated and contract. Self-employment falls into category 2. Which category they fall into will depend on how well what they choose to study will be received by the labour market.

The signs were there the day I joined IBM after graduating from McGill. They were there during the 25 years in which I operated my IT executive search business, and they’re not going away. Satya Nadella’s “technological displacement” is directly attributable to many of them. Participating in 25 annual interview skills workshops for co-op and graduating business students at a university in the Greater Toronto Area showed that few if any of them understood what drives managers and why they favour certain degree programmes over others. That hasn’t changed.

In 15 years as a transition counselling consultant, I conducted job search workshops and led group sessions for managers in how to carry out 5-minute severance notification meetings. I was part of over 2100 of those meetings and was privy to why every one of them was taking place. Half of the employees I met claimed that they “never saw it coming.” They did see it. They just didn’t think it would happen to them.

Our Programmes

PDD 1: Pre-University

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

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

Parents and their future university graduates 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 assign research projects at each session and evaluate the results at the following session. They’ll complete one business case for each of two or more sets of objectives. Final decisions about what their children will study, where and why will be up to them, but they’ll be informed decisions.

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

To learn about the PDD process, the people of PDD, must-read articles and posts, please click on the tabs at the top of your screen. You’ll find insights into the relationship between work and higher education you won’t find anywhere else.

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably contemplating decisions that will impact on people you care about. Those people and the decisions you’ll be making deserve due diligence. Please call or e-mail me to schedule your no-charge, exploratory telephone call.



F. Neil Morris

+1 905 273 9880

skype: fnmorris