Somewhere along the lines, college changed from being a stepping stone to the goal in and of itself.. and no one considered what comes after.
There is nothing wrong with skilled labor. We need it and it is vital for any economy. The problem is that many of us teach our kids to look down upon such career paths.
"You're nothing if you don't go to college" seems to be a common sentiment instilled in our children as they grow up. Well, often times you're nothing if you do go to college because a million other 22 year olds with the same middle of the road academic resume graduated right alongside with you. Have fun delivering pizzas.
Throw in the fact that working more than 40 hours is called "overtime" in many cases, it seems like reasonable trade offs.
(Then again, maybe it's a "grass is greener" view.)
Now, Josh (my cousin) is not a stupid person by any means, but he's also not academically inclined. He's not very technical and, for example, doesn't enjoy reading the Principia in his spare time.
What he does enjoy is having a steady job that pays him well enough to support his family. He has that as an electrician and he has a good amount of job security. He is not an unskilled worker and he cannot be replaced by any Joe Shmoe off the street.
That's more than can be said of many of the people I went to high school with (graduated in '01) who have college degrees (lots of marketing and psychology majors here).
Let's rewind a generation or so and pretend to be our parents. At a very basic level, looking around, I see a pattern of "X went to college, and X has a better standard of living than I do". Easy answer: college makes life better. I want my kids to do that well, so I better get little Sally to go to college.
I don't know whether that's entirely true or not, but I think that college has been the "easy answer" for a generation. Somehow things like work-ethic, realistic career goals, etc. got lost along the way.
I hate the idea that "if we go through college and get the degree, we'll be all set in life." Who has been saying that? Anyone saying that is either lazy or worse. All degrees were not created equal, and it seems that a surprising number of people either honestly thought all degrees were equally valuable or people simply didn't put any thought into their career or life before signing up for tens of thousands of dollars in loans.
If we use the same analogy I had above, I think the "if you go to college, you'll be set" is completely wrong. 20 years ago, the people who went to college were, in general, the more motivated set of people who actively sought to go to college. They weren't just following the prescribed plan, they actually were thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives, what they loved, how to achieve their goals. Now that college is the "default", everyone goes to college, it's just expected.
Anyways, this whole thing wasn't a bash on people who do and don't go to college. Of course there are going to be more taxi drivers with college degrees now: a much higher percentage of people have college degrees now. Everyone is expected and encouraged to go to college. There are still going to be taxi drivers, bartenders and other such positions.
Going to college was highly correlated with a strong work ethic, motivation, future-planning, etc. General success. Therefore certain people came to the conclusion: make it easier for everyone to go to college, and everyone will receive the same benefits. So everyone goes to college, but that obviously doesn't actually increase the prevalence of work ethic or motivation in the general population, it just means that those who don't have it end up with a useless degree and some non-dischargable debt.
The same thing played out with homeownership too. Owning a home was correlated with some types of success -- often the same ones for higher education -- so much effort is expended making it easier to own a home. And we saw how well that worked out.
I think some colleges and universities themselves are a part of this. The attitude from my school (small liberal arts) at least was that college was explicitly NOT meant to be training you for your future career, but rather that your studies were worthwhile for the sake of learning and personal enrichment. Just a lot of the "teaching you how to think" bs that liberal arts schools tend to sell themselves on.
Today, large businesses often solve this worker shortage by outsourcing the job to substandard contractors in countries with far lower pay bands. Businesses would rather pay to train a cheap, blank slate worker than pay the premium to train an American with a four-year college degree. This can be profoundly short-sighted, but the most recent management school generation is too often wedded to bean counting and manipulating vanity metrics. They often fail to grasp subjective and hidden business costs. HP's Carly Fiorina is a classic example. She wanted to cut R&D to zero because she believed it was purely a cost center and produced no profit. If anything cannot be counted, it does not count.
"Germany managed to avoid a surge of lay-offs after the financial crisis and has done far better than others at getting the young and the hard-to-employ into work.
How did it manage that? Most explanations heap praise on the Mittelstand model and the system of vocational training. Firms such as Storopack or Rösch take on apprentices, mixing practical training with classroom tuition."
Of course, this is NOT the only reason for their current financial prowess in Europe, but a contributing factor
The problem was that they confused cause with effect, and decided that we should put a bunch of effort into getting degrees for poor people. This diluted the degree as a class indicator.
Now, I don't have a degree or rich parents, so obviously, I haven't seen the parts of the job market that rely on those class markers. I'm the riff-raff that those filters are designed to keep out.
However, from where I stand? most individual contributor jobs in my industry that I'm actually qualified for are open to me. In the tech sector, the value of a degree is smaller than actual work experience. (I mean, if you actually /learned/ something while getting that degree, that's pretty valuable. But the paper itself is not.) Internships? they are paid. Maybe not paid a lot, but something, and the real companies usually pay substantially.
As far as I can tell, unpaid internships are 'class marker inflation' - "Not only did my parents have enough cash to put me through four years of art history, and the contacts to get me this internship, they could support me while I worked for free!"
What ever happened with the colo rates re: "Feb 1, 2013" as detailed on this page:
Did they raise you on this or were you able to renegotiate favorably? (A post on this would be nice. Would like to know the business details as I'm sure others would if you'd like to share).
That's the thing, renting co-lo space, when you least datacenter space is generally a really shitty deal; the economics make more sense when you own the place.
I'm also building out a datacenter in my buddy's warehouse in santa clara, but the fiber isn't there yet, and the power isn't in yet so unless you can deal with comcast-level network, that doesn't help you. It does look like it will be pretty cool when it's up; we have a bunch of those 'datacenter in a cargo container' things; My buddy wants to rent out whole containers at a time to big players; I am focusing on renting dedicated servers in them. Again, it's high density, so having a bunch of smaller customers with access is probably a bad idea.
So yeah, uh, it's essentially still all up in the air, with no real ETA.
The response was that, then, if everyone had a college degree, everyone would be so able. The problem then is twofold:
First, people without a strong primary education background went to college, forcing colleges to either lower standards and/or spend time remediating (financial pressure from governments to tie funding to graduation rates sure didn't help to preserve high standards).
Second, the presence of a college degree as an indicator of an unusually high level of prior primary education and academic ability disappeared since so many people have a college degree.
Two generations ago, they were almost the same thing. With automation, commoditization, increased college graduation rates, and changing economic situations, the effort required to obtain the same relative level of credentials has gone up. First it was a bachelor's degree. Then, you were nothing without a masters degree. Then came the MBA boom. Now we have startup incubators and aqui-hire.
But this apparently isn't changing anyone's behavior yet, so the education bubble continues to grow.
Now, mass unemployment simply cannot be solved via education - the parable of the 100 dogs and 92 bones was discussed here not so long ago. (The original link was this one, I believe: http://alittleecon.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/the-parable-of-1...)
However, having a good education and credentials does increase the chances that you'll get one of the 92 metaphorical bones, so of course it makes sense to get one. But this only really works reliably if your education and your credentials are better than those of your peers.
This leads to an arms race which explains why degrees are become simultaneously worth less and more important.
Edited to add: The effect on degrees is actually old hat already. These days, it's about an inflation of unpaid internship to spice up your CV, at least for those in non-technical fields.
I reject the notion that they should starve. I'm OK with supporting them, but wouldn't it be better, more popular at least, to have them produce something? A resource standing idle is an opportunity so, all else equal, idle resources should not exist.
I realize it's more complicated than that. Frictional unemployment, etc. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a significant chunk of the population being permanently idled by structural changes in the economy.
In e.g. security consulting, we certainly hire good people wherever we can find and afford them. Being reductive for a minute, each consultant is essentially a cab with a little taxi meter over their their head, and more cabs = more money, up to the limit of available work (which no-one in the industry is anywhere near hitting).
I hear a similar story from my brother who is a plumber.
The reason why I think this: This behavior would break down if things really changed at a macro scale. If there were suddenly lots of people who are great at doing penetration testing or code audits or whatever your particular specialty is, you would raise your standards and start to turn more people away.
Another way to look at it is supply and demand. If there really were demand for people - rather than just a permanent watchfulness for grabbing up above average people when you can - basic economics would predict that salaries would increase. Generally speaking (there may always be some very small, localized exceptions) this is not what is happening.
While still unproven alternative education techniques such as online or internships/apprenticeships may turn out to be more effective and much less expensive. If employers become convinced traditional diplomas and degrees are unreliable indicators of quality and better alternatives exist, we could see a sudden shift away from traditional education.
Would you rather hire someone with a middle ranking college degree or two years experience and a letter of recommendation from their boss? Or a certificate from a reputable online program in the exact skill you need?
For many people the certificate might be worthwhile, of course. There have always been people willing to take jobs that were inherently risky (working for the only factory in a small town, for example). So my point is that even if alternatives become more popular, they probably won't provide what a college education typically provided in the sense that the balance of power will be shifted away from the employee and toward the employer.
University is a great place for people to learn the fundamentals in a structured way and learn how to learn. While a few very talented and motivated folks can pick it up themselves by reading, the vast majority can't reach that point by themselves (me included).
(Note, I'm only talking about sciences and engineering, those are the only ones I know anything about)
Someone with college experience will probably know more theory, which is useful. But they rarely realize that large projects are significantly different from their college work, and they don't understand why you have to do what your users want instead of what the theory says is correct. So when I hire someone with a degree and no experience, I know my team will need to teach them those things.
On the other hand, people without college degrees can get into a lot of trouble if they don't learn the theory behind their work (especially algorithmic complexity). So when I hire someone without a degree, I know my team will need to teach them those things.
because the quality of a degree has been falling for decades and it is now widely known outside of government and very large corporations that the skills people have are valuable but the skills a college claims a given person has are fairly unlikely to track reality or to be real world valuable.
Said the federal land grant college graduate!
We should be training people for the job that they will eventually hold instead of teaching theoretical scenarios and looking over case studies.
Its already started to gain a foothold in the tech industry and I believe it will be even more in demand as college degrees become less valuable.
They're clearly drawing the wrong conclusion. GPS makes being a cabbie easier, which makes it less valuable for people to put the time into becoming a skilled professional cabbie, which makes driving a cab a more feasible option for someone who looks at it as a temporary job.
It’s hard to believe this is because the skill required to drive a taxi
has risen substantially since 1970. If anything, GPS technology may
have had the opposite effect. (Acquiring “the knowledge” of London
streets, as taxi drivers there are required to do, is cognitively
challenging, but it may no longer be necessary.)
Apparent stagnation could also occur if a small proportion of graduates are become significantly overvalued for non-cognitive skills while a majority experience wage stagnation or decline.