Education shouldn’t be taken lightly


 

In Ontario, Section 21 of the Education Act requires that a family send its children to school until the age of 18 (Grade 12). The world prefers at least 4 more years (university).

Even though the price of a degree keeps going up, parents accept it as a fact of life because they’re convinced that their children will find work that pays enough to retire outstanding student loans, if applicable, and set out on their own. But (a) $40,000 for a basic, in town bachelor’s degree (tuition, fees, expenses) isn’t pocket change; (b) six million Canadians are working at precarious jobs; and (c) management continues to use technology to reduce its dependence on headcount.

The net result is that young people with incomes are moving back home to live with their parents so that they can save money or turn to The Bank of Mom and Pop for down payments on the 21st century equivalent of a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. The new normal is changing, but to what we don’t know because the process is still ongoing.

We have to think very carefully about how to reconcile the kind of education our children want with what employers want. This has the potential to place the kids between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding work in their chosen field. There are 26,368 universities in business in the world today. By 2025, 262 million students will be studying there. That makes many of today’s degrees commodities. Employers are as particular about whom they hire as they are because they can afford to be.

Post-secondary education is now as much about strategy and income as it is about academics. By their actions, employers are telling us to educate our children to be relevant to the times in which we live. They aren’t as willing to accommodate applicants with less than ideal credentials as they used to be. It’s a buyer’s market for graduates, but not all university education guarantees financial security or stability.

Personal Due Diligence (PDD) is based on understanding the labour market and developing post-secondary strategies to deal with it. In 2012 we learned that 300,000 graduates were working as unpaid interns. They said that they “couldn’t find work in their chosen field.” Did they not know where or how to look for it? Were they outmanoeuvred by people who did? Did they assume that a job with their name on it would be waiting for them once they returned their caps and gowns? Or that there would even be one? Now comes word that unpaid internships may still be with us. To wit, this recent headline in the Toronto Star: “Legal advocacy group under fire for unpaid internship scheme.

The traditional one job/one employee/one employer model has been disrupted. Deloitte and the Human Resources Professionals Association describe these times as the Intelligence Revolution and the gig economy, and the phenomenon isn’t unique to Canada. A child born in 2017 who attends their first lecture in 2035 can expect to pay $86,000 for a basic, at-home bachelor’s degree that today costs $40,000. That number will rise to over $152,000 if they study away from home.

Personal Due Diligence (PDD) helps families vet their assumptions about the connection between advanced education and financial security. We start two years before high school graduation to give them the time to identify and evaluate options. Here are some examples of what they’ll want to consider:

  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

Families will want to understand the lay of the land before they commit non-refundable after-tax dollars to post-secondary education. Our public education systems don’t explain the need for that. Nor do they teach what to do when 75% of employers use résumé screening software that eliminates 90% of all applicants. PDD does.

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.” Those jobs will be filled by graduates with the latest, most relevant credentials. Some may not even exist today. To be among the 10% of applicants whose résumés will make it through screening, those graduates will need to know how to build a résumé that works with that software, not against it.

During 25 years as an executive recruiter I participated in 25 annual interview skills workshops at a university in the Greater Toronto Area. I saw nothing to suggest that their students understood the priorities that drive managers and how they deal with them. One of those priorities is fine-tuning 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.

Job loss is an outcome best avoided.

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