Thousands of parents are pushing their kids into college, doing them a dangerous disservice. Many young people don't belong in a four-year---or more---university curriculum. More than half of them wash out before graduation, a high proportion during the first two years. Their failure---in an endeavor that their parents insisted was the only way to achieve success in today's world---reinforces a sense of unworthiness. Their low self esteem will affect many aspects of their lives, potentially even the way they raise their children.
By directing young people that the 4-year college is the only path, parents and school counselors are inhibiting thousands of careers and causing serious problems for employers who need skilled workers now. These well-meaning adults might do better by guiding many high school students into community or technical college educational paths. The young people will gain more academic knowledge---of a practical nature---and will learn valuable skills opening employment opportunities.
Generation X parents, born 1965 to 1985, grew up learning to be independent self-starters to blaze their own path through life. In their formative years, they got the message that they needed to think for themselves, not take for granted what elders said, and to check out all the alternatives. Now they're guiding their children differently, to the point that they are behaving more like the go-along-with-the-crowd Baby Boomers---their parents.
There are plenty of great jobs available today. In the years ahead, as we move through the most severe shortage of skilled labor in history, preference will go to workers who can fill employers' needs for talent. While education will always be important, emphasis will be placed on training, abilities, and experience. Significant academic strength will still be needed, but for direct practical application.
Let's take healthcare as an example. To even qualify for positions in nursing, health technology, or pharmacy, students will need extra college math, chemistry, and other sciences, and a strong reading level. How about automobile mechanics? Computer skills are required now, in addition to a knowledge of a wide range of integrated mechanical systems. That's why starting salaries in this field are in the $40,000 range, with Master Mechanics easily earning $70,000 to $100,000, according to "Automotive Retailing Today."
If we want more examples, we have only to look at jobs like aircraft mechanics, plumbers, electricians, welders, air conditioning technicians, computer technicians and network administrators, and even kitchen designers. More examples? Air traffic controllers, law enforcement officers, nuclear plant operators, logistics specialists, and printing press operators are all in high demand right now.
While college and university educations, and the careers they prepare people for, will always be important and in demand, it is important today to guide people on paths that are most appropriate for them. For many, further education and career enhancement is in their future, but those moves may not come in the while collar direction.
Now is the time to encourage young people to invest in themselves by starting where they will be happy, with a good education in the field. With this effort, the young people will be more personally invested and pleased with results, employers will be happy that they have good people to work with, and parents will be pleased, knowing their children are productive, fulfilled, and self-supporting.
The Herman Group is a firm of consulting futurists concentrating on workforce and workplace trends and their implications. Emphasis is placed on employee selection and retention as critical strategies. Included in the firm are researchers, professional speakers, authors, and consultants. The Herman Group is based in Greensboro, NC, with affiliates in Sao Paulo, Melbourne, Hong Kong, and Port Louis, Mauritius. Contact Joyce Gioia-Herman at 336-210-3548 or e-mail: email@example.com.
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