Manufactured Mistake


I'm studying very hard in college. Some in my family think it's a waste of time. Why do they think I'm not learning anything?

Your question reflects a difference in life experience, not just viewpoints. Studying at college doesn't always give you skills to enter the workplace, which your family have already earned. This is what concerns your relatives: you may end up with a major, but not be job ready.

Historically, high-school students in the US were taught vocational courses, along with academic ones. This guaranteed they hands-on experience and skills, in a society becoming industrialized. Changes in cultural expectations, starting in the 1950’s, led to a 'college-for-everyone' mindset. Students pursued separate vocational and academic paths. As a result, many career options were marginalized.

With around 69% of high-school students attending college, over 30% graduate with neither vocational nor academic qualifications. Even the 69% are not doing that well. In that group, over 40% fail to complete the four-year college program. The numbers aren't promising.

There is more evidence that four-year college programs benefit fewer students these days. Remarkably, 53% of recent graduates are unemployed or underemployed. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 37% of college grads are doing work that only a requires a high-school degree. We're back asking whether the four-year slog is really worth it?

We see in today’s economy there is a void in manufacturing employment, due to the demise of vocational studies at high school. This vitally important sector is modernizing at a rapid pace, with the emergence of new technology. The resurgence in manufacturing is creating an abundance of highly-skilled and well-paying job opportunities for those with vocational skills, says Wiss & Co., accounting and consulting firm.

During the Trump presidency, new construction of any manufacturing plant is highlighted. A 100-million-dollar facility may be expected to bring 200 jobs. That is a $500K investment per worker. These are high-tech jobs, requiring different skills than decades ago, explains BCN Technical, provider of stamping press upgrades.

Community colleges are now offering a variety of educational options and courses to gain skills for manufacturing. These include apprenticeships, vocational programs, and on-the-job training. None of these requires the time, expense and effort of a four-year college degree.

Most young people today will have many jobs over the course of their lifetimes. Vocational skills training will expand your options for the type of work you choose. The days of walking straight into work from four years of college are fading. Parents and students should more actively plan for a future career path.

If you are reading this on a laptop, remember, it was manufactured by someone with vocational skills, boasts custom Macbook employees.

(Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times).

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