What would my grandfather say?


That 28,077 universities are operating around the world speaks to how society has benefitted from them for over 4000 years. We continue to put our money into our belief that universities progress and contribute to our children’s future wellbeing. We go so far as to make sacrifices and incur debt so that our children might attend. So do grandparents.

But progress comes at a price. The new displaces the old, how we work and at what is transformed or replaced, there are winners and there are losers. The process never stops: if it did, I wouldn’t have been able to write this and you wouldn’t be reading it.

Technology is progress and we have to equip our children to adapt to it because we can’t stop it. Choosing the right education for the times will be a critical component of the choices we make, if we’re to believe what The New York Times published in ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ (please see below). Management plans to accelerate the automation that began in earnest on the shop floor and has now spread to offices and white-collar jobs that were once considered untouchable. The process dates from when the world’s first commercial computer was installed in the U.S. in 1951, and we’re living with the results.

Not all jobs being done by humans will be eliminated. Many are being upgraded and call for leading edge education and training and new ones are being created. But it will have to be the right education. The old ways are disappearing and jobs along with them. That could impact on 40% of all jobs within the next 15 years. In 15 years of working in transition counselling, I met face-to-face with 2133 people where they worked who were displaced because they couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt.

My grandfather’s generation lived through the Great Depression, World War II and Korea. It used its survival instincts to make it through. He would have argued that conditioning our children to expect that a good job will be waiting for them once they graduate has dulled those instincts. He would have likened higher education to fishing tackle. It isn’t the rod that catches the fish, it’s the fisherman. Choose the wrong bait, cast or troll in the wrong part of the lake at the wrong time of day and there’ll be no fish to fry come evening.

The worldwide pool of students from which employers will draw graduates will reach 262 million by 2025. Those who dangle the right degree in front of the right employer in the right place at the right time and persevere will land a job.

But are we teaching our children how to fish or how to read the lay of the land? In ‘The Prosperity Initiative’ (1991), the Government of Canada warned that:

“Canadians are asking what the future holds for themselves and their families. In a profoundly changing world, they know that traditional strategies are no longer enough to provide economic security and prosperity, and protect our environment. New approaches are needed to meet the challenges that confront us—challenges that threaten our ability to generate new jobs, our standard of living, and our social programs.”

It went on to say that we’d have to extend basic education from 13 years to 17 years by the year 2000 to cope with the world we’d be living in. In 2012, twenty years after that caveat and notwithstanding their degrees, as many as 300,000 graduates were working as unpaid interns in this country because “they couldn’t find work in their chosen field.” Despite the number of options open to them and the amount of time they had to weigh them, how did they manage to misread the labour market as badly as they did? What should they have known? Where should they have learned it? What had become of their survival instincts?

What follows is a snapshot of the lay of the land:

So is this from ‘Private education, A class apart’ (The Economist, Apr. 13th-19th):

“IF SPENDING IS a measure of what matters, then the people of the developing world place a high value on brains. While private spending on education has not budged in real terms in the rich world in the past ten years, in China and India it has more than doubled. The Chinese now spend 5% of household income on education and the Indians 4%, compared with 2.5% for the Americans and 1% for the Europeans. As a result, private schooling, tuition, vocational and tertiary education are booming in developing countries.”

Forbes reports that in the U.S., students are carrying US$1.5 trillion in outstanding loans. They and others describe the situation as a crisis. Bloomberg News reports that consumer insolvencies in Canada have risen to an 8-year high. This may not be the best time to invest in the wrong education.

This is the hand we’ve been dealt, and we’re not in Kansas anymore. Employers are building 21st century, Fourth Industrial Revolution workforces, not 20th century workforces.

There are life-altering decisions to be made. To help parents work their way through them is why Personal Due Diligence exists. Your first conversation with us will cost you nothing. Not calling could cost a great deal more.

That’s what my grandfather would have said.

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