The World Economic Forum, higher education and outcomes for our children

The World Economic Forum “engages the foremost political, business and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas.” Its 2019 Annual Meeting took place in Davos from Jan. 22nd through Jan. 25th.

The WEF is to the world of business what Paris and Milan are to the world of fashion: not everything they present on the runway will appeal to everyone, but it will give us food for thought.

Our children should be thinking about it if they plan to spend 4 years and $46,764 CDN on a basic bachelor’s degree ($87,164 CDN with residence) so that they can compete successfully for work against graduates of the 28,077 universities in operation around the world today. There will be 262 million students enrolled in those universities by 2025.

Nor should we forget that there are over 7.7 billion of us on the planet and that not all great ideas come from university graduates. (Google “successful business people who didn’t graduate from university”.)

On Jan. 25th, The New York Times published ‘The Hidden Automation Agenda of the Davos Elite’ in which it said, “They’ll never admit it in public, but many of your bosses want machines to replace you as soon as possible.” That’s food for thought.

Lives are built on steady incomes. Bosses who plan to replace people with robots threaten those lives, and that threat isn’t confined to soon-to-be graduates. What qualifications will be in demand when our children graduate? How strong will that demand be? Where in the world will it be? How long will it last?

Do parents understand that only certain university degrees will qualify a graduate to compete for a position, but none guarantee that a position will be offered?

Education is serious business, serious enough that what organizations like the WEF publish should be considered carefully because of its long-term implications. Especially now given how the world is changing and how it will continue to change.

Most of what those organizations publish is free. But it’s not enough that it be free: it must also be correct and relevant because of what’s riding on it.

Showing parents and their children how to identify, access and interpret that information is why Personal Due Diligence exists.

F. Neil Morris
President & Founder
PERSONAL DUE DILIGENCE

info@personalduediligence.ca

The labour market: grizzlies and streams where the salmon run

Just when we thought it was safe to think of the workplace as a stable, predictable environment in which to earn a living and build a life, job security is slipping into reverse. Precarious (irregular) employment is becoming more common, governments are working at increasing the minimum wage and employers are still ‘hiring’ young people but not paying them because, those employers claim, they’re volunteers. The law now takes a dim view of such practices.

Deloitte (‘Six trends to watch in alternative work’), RBC Royal Bank (‘Predicting Tomorrow’s Workforce: More ‘bots, More Skills, More Anxiety’) and McKinsey Global Institute (‘What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages’) tell us that technology and higher education will figure prominently in the future of work. But when the rubber meets the road, neither comes with a guarantee of employment, lifelong or ottherwise. The 40-hour workweeks and permanent jobs with benefits and pensions we’ve always wanted for our children are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

(To read about a real-world application of what you just read, please visit GM Gets Ready for a Post-Car Future‘, FORTUNE 500, June 1, 2018, for a description of how and why GM CEO Mary Barra is changing the environment and culture at the 110-year-old automaker.)

Parchment isn’t delivering financial security and above average lifetime earnings the way it used to when the world was a more flexible and accommodating place. Demand for university graduates has never been stronger and more students are enrolling because of it. There are now so many degrees on the street that our children have to navigate buyers’ markets for talent, just-in-time work-forces and environments that reward employers for dragging out the hiring process. By 2025, enrollment at the world’s 26,368 universities will stand at 260 million. More graduates, more competition for work.

There are more different kinds of work to apply for and more new places in which to find it than at any other time in history. But résumé screening statistics show that only 10 job applicants in 100 understand what the labour market is and what makes it tick well enough to motivate prospective employers to call them in for an interview. They also show that only one of those 10 applicants will be offered a job. What they don’t tell us is how the work is going to be structured, how much it will pay, how long it will last and how employees and employers are going to relate to one another.

Our education system isn’t producing graduates who can make the connection between what they learn in school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. Every one of the 7.3 billion people on the planet wants their shot at that brass ring.

The National Geographic TV series One Strange Rock aired an episode entitled Survival on April 10th. It showed what survival is in a way that only National Geographic can. BBC Earth is doing the same. Human beings created the technology and shaped the attitudes that define the environments in which we live and and work. Our kids are going to support themselves in those environments.

Grizzlies pluck migrating salmon out of the air as they swim upstream to spawn. The streams are the labour market, the salmon are employment opportunities. Grizzlies know what salmon are, in what streams they’ll be running and how to catch them. We have to teach our children how to find the streams where the salmon run. Whether they’ll choose to fish when they get there and how well they’ll fish will be up to them. 

The world as Deloitte, RBC and McKinsey see it has implications for our children. They’ll have to learn about those implications at our knee because they won’t be learning about them anywhere else.

I teach parents and their young people how to connect school, labour markets, how employers determine what a degree is worth, and going for the brass ring. It’s a skill they’re going to need for the rest of their lives. Grizzlies already know that.

Neil Morris
President
Personal Due Diligence

The art of getting hired

Thinking in the language of the customer

Employers are customers and the customer is always right. But only 10% of applicants understand how employers think and today’s résumé rejection statistics prove it.

Parents expect to see a positive financial return on their investment in university for their children.1 Employers expect to see a return on their investment in hiring university graduates. Whether their child’s degree translates into a signed offer of employment in their chosen field or not will depend on whether the employer believes that their child will be a part of generating that return. Their children will be running a gauntlet of résumé screening applications that want to be spoken to in ‘Employer-ese’. Ninety percent of résumés don’t, including those submitted by newly minted graduates. Applicants who don’t survive the gauntlet aren’t invited to interviews.

Because of what’s on employers’ minds, the Royal Bank recently announced RBC Future Launch. It addresses the problem parents face if you’re contemplating sending their child to university, and there’s no escaping it. Clicking here2 will take you to the Future Launch home page. This is what you’ll see:

“Canada’s youth are set up to fail in the new economy. In fact, today’s generation is at risk of ending up poorer than their parents.1 Failing to close the gap in unemployment rates between Canadian youth and people of prime-working age would mean missing out on a nearly $30B lift to our economy.2 Young people deserve a chance, and that’s why we created Future Launch. If youth fail, we all fail.”

The next page (click here3) is entitled ‘Humans Wanted: How Canadian Youth Can Thrive in the Age of Disruption.’ It says, in part:

“In the coming decade, half of all jobs will be disrupted by technology and automation. Some will change dramatically. Others will disappear completely, replaced by jobs that are yet to be invented. We are living through an era of radical change, with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and automation transforming the way we work,4 even in unexpected fields such as law and customer service.

“We discovered that the four million Canadian youth entering the workforce over the next decade are going to need a foundation of skills that sets them up for many different jobs and roles rather than a single career path. They will need a portfolio of human skills such as critical thinking, social perceptiveness, and complex problem solving to remain competitive and resilient in the labour market.

“We found that Canada is shifting from a jobs economy to a skills economy, and yet employers, educators and policy makers are not prepared. Here are four things you need to know about the coming skills revolution and the future of work:

Disruption Is Accelerating
F
lexibility Is the Future
Digital Literacy Is Essential
We Need to Prepare for the Future of Work”

It takes time and effort to learn how to appeal to a hiring manager. It pays off in a message that’s well received by the people who need to receive it. The process has to begin before irreversible, non-refundable post-secondary decisions are made.

“Jobs are evolving at the same pace as iPhone upgrades,” according to Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor of Simon Fraser University. The more graduates universities produce, the more we’re going to need.5

One day, we may all be able to send our children and ourselves to university purely for the love of learning. Until that day comes, we’ll have to find ways to decrease rejection rates by improving the way we prepare our children to leverage their education so that they can build the life they want to live.

That’s why I founded Personal Due Diligence.

 

F. Neil Morris
President

Personal Due Diligence

Everything old is new again, but with a twist

Twenty-five years ago, people in the know predicted that we would work at five different careers before we retired. They were short on specifics, but their model left no doubt that people would have to re-educate themselves to qualify for those new careers. They didn’t mention the part about bills to pay and mouths to feed.

The future they predicted is here, but with a twist. Twenty-five years ago, university was a lot more affordable than it is now. Incomes were more predictable and more secure. So were pensions.

The mounting cost of sending children to university is becoming more and more painful for more and more families. Which makes RBC Future Launch’s candor so refreshing and so necessary:

“Canada’s youth are set up to fail in the new economy. In fact, today’s generation is at risk of ending up poorer than their parents.1 Failing to close the gap in unemployment rates between Canadian youth and people of prime-working age would mean missing out on a nearly $30B lift to our economy.2 Young people deserve a chance, and that’s why we created Future Launch. If youth fail, we all fail.

 “In the coming decade, half of all jobs will be disrupted by technology and automation. Some will change dramatically. Others will disappear completely, replaced by jobs that are yet to be invented. We are living through an era of radical change, with the latest advancements in artificial intelligence and automation transforming the way we work, even in unexpected fields such as law and customer service.”

What RBC proposes is commendable. But its target market is university students and graduates who’ve already put their money down. Many of them may already have limited their employment and career options. They invested in a future relationship with an employer in a context called the labour market inside another context called an economy. They understood little or nothing about either.

What they chose to study was up to them. What the labour market and the economy will have to say about that will be up to someone else. We don’t teach our children that. RBC is proposing a cure to a problem that already exists. Kudos to them. But we need something concrete to prevent the problem in the first place. Personal Due Diligence is that something.

We’re told that the more graduates we produce, the more graduates we’re going to need. But parents and their children need to know where the jobs will be before their first tuition cheque comes due. Our governments are showing no signs of preparing lists with timetables of occupations that have been earmarked for disruption or obsolescence, let alone notes about how it’s going to happen and when. That’s something families will have to do on their own because once size does not fit all.

While we’re at it, we may want to pay special attention to what it’s costing financially, physically and emotionally to send our children there. ‘Hunger And Homelessness Are Widespread Among College Students, Study Finds’ is the title of a National Public Radio report about a survey done by Temple University in Philadelphia and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab in Madison.

We can’t hope our way to a solution. We have to build one. In an address on September 3, 2008, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, “Change is not a destination, just as hope is not a strategy.”

On January 23, 2009, CBS NEWS posted an open letter to President Barack Obama from Dr. Benjamin Ola Akande. Dr. Akande is an economist, scholar and Dean of the Business School at Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. The title of his letter was ‘Hope Is Not A Strategy.’ You can find the full text by clicking here. This is an excerpt:

“Yet, the fact remains that hope will not reduce housing foreclosures. Hope does not stop a recession. Hope cannot create jobs. Hope will not prevent catastrophic failures of banks. Hope is not a strategy.”

Our youth must win so that we all can win. That’s why Personal Due Diligence exists.

Neil Morris
Founder & President
Personal Due Diligence

+1 905.273.9880
info@personalduediligence.ca

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.

Three articles, our children, and food for thought

 

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article entitled, Is Your Job About To Disappear?: Quick Take, said this:

“Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won’t be enough jobs to go around? That’s what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn.”

In his review of “The Golden Passport” in the April 10th New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote, “The book is a richly reported indictment of the [Harvard Business School] as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country … Citing a report from the Aspen Institute, [the book’s author Duff] McDonald explains that “when students enter business school, they believe that the purpose of a corporation is to produce goods and services for the benefit of society. When they graduate,” he continued, “they believe that it is to maximize shareholder value.”

The Real Threat of Artificial Intelligence appeared on the Opinion page of the New York Times Sunday Review dated June 24, 2017. It was written by Kai-Fu Lee, chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm, and the president of its Artificial Intelligence Institute.

Clearly the debate is heating up. At some point, someone or a group of someones will decide the winner, if there is a winner. Others will hand down a verdict on whether or not the Harvard Business School should take the credit or the blame for how enthusiastically business has embraced technology.

Families about to engage with their children in discussions about post-secondary education might want to answer these questions: Will there be 40-hour-a-week jobs with benefits and retirement pensions? Where? What kinds of jobs will they be? What education will it take to qualify for them? It’s a start.