Here’s the paradox. On the one hand, young graduates can’t find jobs. On the other, employers complain that they can’t find candidates with the necessary entry-level skills.
At the same time, tuition fees have increased considerably at both sides of the pond and graduate unemployment is at record highs. The outcome?
Students end up with a university degree (most of them), a significant debt (almost all of them), and the painful realization that their degree may have limited employment prospects (many of them).
Nevertheless, the advice we continue to give to pupils is the same as the one we received ourselves 20 years ago; get a university degree if you want to be better off.
When the topic of employability is raised, many oppose to the notion of connecting higher education with career advancement although there are subjects that suffer from overabundance of young graduates (Supply far exceeds demand so unemployment rates are high).
What worked well in the past cannot help us prepare for the future. The most basic task is to question our own assumptions and assess whether these widely-held beliefs are still justified. “When the facts change, I change my mind,”John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) said. “What do you do, Sir?”
The facts about higher education have changed;
- its cost has increased considerably,
- a university degree does not guarantee a job any more,
- job prospects vary across subjects, and
- the quality of education on offer varies significantly.
Isn’t it about time we also change our minds?
The dilemma that most pupils face is not whether to go to university or not (although the latter might be a better option for some). The dilemma is what to study, where and how much it will cost.
Every year thousands of graduates make a painful discovery: far from taking the first step towards a great career, they’ve just wasted their time and money on the wrong degree. They wish they had done more research before they applied. They didn’t though because we didn’t encourage them.
The world is changing rapidly and new challenges call for new strategies. We simply cannot hang on to the nostalgia of our university experiences. It might have been an ideal place for us to discover ourselves but now this benefit comes with a considerable price tag.
Pupils need to invest their time in finding a career path that suits their strengths and interests and then study a relevant degree. In this way, they will be able to take advantage of the university resources to become truly great in the field they have chosen so that they can be ready to compete with the world’s best.
Our role is to empower them to evaluate their options and understand the trade-offs before they apply.
Employability is not simply only equipping yourself to get a job. It is about choosing a career you are passionate about and you can excel in. Being practical doesn’t mean forgetting about passion – it’s all about combining the two and equipping yourself for work you’ll love.
Korina Karampela is the founder of b4iapply, coach and speaker. She is the author of “b4iapply to uni” and “b4iapply to college“. She has worked as senior pharmaceutical executive for 12 years and has an MBA from MIT Sloan. Her blog b4iapply is recommended by The Guardian for professional development.
As you learn at college remember what BF Skinner said: “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten”
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