My dad, who is a general contractor, recently lamented how hard it is to find guys around my age to hire as workers for his construction business. Most want to make a lot of money doing minimal work. Others can’t handle manual labor and refuse to get their hands dirty. As a result, vocational trades lag behind and our economy subsequently suffers. This is a troubling trend in other industries, as well. Many Millennials -regardless of gender – can’t comprehend an honest day’s work. They want instant gratification or a quick buck.
What best explains this? There’s this ridiculous expectation that a college degree will buy one success and happiness. (That’s patently false!) The quality of higher education – depending upon the university one graduates from – varies and is generally mediocre today compared to prior decades. (Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but a degree in Feminist/Gender Studies has a poor return on investment (ROI) and isn’t a marketable area of concentration.) With this inherent expectation that everyone must go to college, the higher education bubble is slated to burst. Millennials are graduating with mountains of debt and limited-to-no job prospects in sight. Opportunities to bask in prosperity are becoming increasingly dismal.
Having graduated with a B.A. from a reputable university in California, I can personally say that a college degree essentially is a piece of paper. Admittedly, I had the distinct pleasure of attending UCSD- an opportunity many still kill for today. (I earned my place there; I worked very hard in high school to get in there.) I made some great friends, graduated from a top political science program, learned a lot, and got my start in politics through campus activism there. That is a chapter in my life that I will always cherish. However, if having a college degree weren’t a prerequisite for getting a job today, I may have reconsidered college. Studying political science primarily comprised of theory rather than real-world application. If it weren’t for spending numerous hours volunteering or working part-time jobs/internships centered around conservative politics during college, I wouldn’t be where I am today. If you have a college degree but no work experience, prospective employers will glance over your application and not give any thought to hiring you. Yes, a college degree will set you apart from others – but if you can’t work hard or challenge yourself, the real world will work against you. Employers still care about quality work. If Millennials think waving a college degree in an employer’s’ face will compel them to hire them, they’re wrong.
Can our country have a highly educated populace AND a highly-skilled populace? I’d argue yes. (This is how we historically stood out from the rest of the world!) I’d also like to pose that education is a subjective term. One can be educated in a classroom or on a construction site; on a farm or in a factory; on the battlefield or on a base; in a family business or independent of the government, etc. There are many ways to be educated beyond a classroom!
It’s disheartening a real conversation on choice in education has yet to take place…