I’ve seen far too many young people graduate college with tens of thousands in dollars in student loan debt and still struggle to find full-time work, so when I had an opportunity to grab a free review copy of “Job U” from BloggingForBooks.org I couldn’t resist.
Written by Nicolas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, Job U is an ambitious book that aims…
“…to change the entire conversation about what the right path to a rewarding and prosperous career can look like: the conversation going on at company headquarters, in college admissions offices, and around kitchen tables across the nation. It will shatter the false dogma that college is best – or only – path for every ambitious young person, and it will provide the spark for a jobs revolution by offering a new and different way of looking at the path to a fulfilling and successful work life.”
Does Wyman succeed?
Well, let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly.
I don’t think anyone can argue with the point that there is something very wrong with the current state of our educational system. The cost of an education continues to skyrocket at a pace that many Americans simply can’t afford.
In order to get a degree from even an “average” college, students have to dig themselves deeply into debt. Student loan totals now exceed $1.2 TRILLION nationwide and that number is growing every day.
But as eye-opening as that number is, the even scarier reality is that many students are just unable to even make their monthly student loan payments, much less find money for rent, a car, dating, etc. You know, life.
Wyman makes a excellent point when he questions if a college degree is worth having if it puts you tens of thousands of dollars in debt and you’re still unemployed or underemployed.
Obviously, it is a worthwhile endeavor for some. But Wyman questions why almost ALL high school students are pushed towards college even if they are completely unprepared. The one size fits all rule of “college for all” just doesn’t make sense. It has resulted in a glut of young people with a college degree but few if any marketable skills that will make an employer hire them.
Something clearly needs to change and I think that has to start with partnerships between educational institutions, business, and government. We need to put more thought into what and how we’re teaching our youth. Instead of just handing them a diploma and wishing them luck, we need to make sure they will graduate with the skills needed to succeed on their own.
Wyman clearly has a passion for his cause and he makes many great points about the benefits of vocational and technical schooling. He dispels the notion that trade schools and apprenticeships are a one way street that lead only to low paid jobs with room for future growth, and even offers many examples of people who took that track and ended up in rewarding careers earning far more than college graduates.
But like many people who are trying to champion a cause they hold dear he does come off a bit one-sided at times. While trying to break the mindset of “college for all” by extolling the virtues of vocational and technical education, he seems to forget that college is still a wise choice for many.
While I agree that college is not for everyone, I don’t think apprenticeships are for everyone either.
For example, in criticizing the traditional college education, he asserts that “too many young people finish school woefully lacking in both practical, marketable skills, as well as the soft skills needed to secure a job, collaborate on a team, make a presentation, and successfully navigate in the real workplace.”
But I went to college and I’ve done all those things. When I was in school I took classes where we had to work in groups and give presentations and I’ve had to do the same in post-college career.
While not every college graduate is ready for the workplace, I don’t think it’s fair to imply that anyone who goes through vocational education will be prepared for everything life throws at them. What works for one will not work for everyone.
I got off to a rough start right in the prologue when Wyman states that “millions of jobs are being left vacant – or worse, being sent overseas because there are not enough U.S. workers with the skills to do them or do them well.”
I’m sorry to break this to you, but the reason companies move jobs overseas is not because they can’t find any competent workers in the U.S. They move jobs overseas because they can pay foreign workers in India or the Philippines a tiny fraction of what they pay American workers. Like everything else it comes down to the almighty dollar.
Later Wyman talks more about the shortage of skilled workers and even the manufacturing industry, which has outsourced millions of jobs overseas, has companies that “would be willing to bring these jobs back from overseas – if only they could find enough skilled people to do the work they need.
But whose fault is that??
It was there own shortsighted, penny-pinching decision to offshore all those manufacturing jobs in the first place. They abandoned their workers so they could produce their cars, toys, and t-shirts cheaper and pad their own profits.
And Americans took the hint. Manufacturing and production used to be an industry you’d want to get into because you knew you could find steady work that paid well and gave you an opportunity to retire comfortably.
But as all the jobs left and millions were left unemployed, Americans realized that the old-school skills they possessed were no longer valued. A college degree became more sought after as a way of getting into corporate America and protecting yourself from layoffs suffered in other industries.
Of course, now all those white collar jobs are disappearing overseas too as companies realize that foreign workers will answer customer service calls or process paperwork for far less than U.S. workers will.
It’s the chicken and egg. No one has the technical skills because all those jobs had dried up and young people had to look elsewhere if they hoped to find work. In a decade or two we might be talking about how many companies would love to bring their customer service jobs back to the U.S. if only they could find people with the right skills.
So is Job U worth reading?
Yes, I recommend it to anyone looking for a thought-provoking read about the current state of our educational system and what we need to do to get it back on track.
Grab your copy of Job U right now on sale at Amazon and then drop a comment below to let me know what you thought.