To What Extent Should University Function as Training Ground for Employment
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There has been a trend for nearly 30 years though that the university should serve the purpose of vocational training facility instead of the historical role of keeper and distributor of knowledge. Some, myself included, point to this trend as explanation of why a university degree at the bachelor’s level no longer has the economic value it once did.
To really look at the question though, you will need to separate the two concepts of training and education. In simplest terms, training provides immediately transferable skills of some sort. Usually along the “how to do” spectrum. Education provides a different set of skills along the “why we do” spectrum particularly the ability to analyze, comprehend, and synthesize information. The two aren’t the same. Sometimes they even conflict with each other.
A university is designed to provide education. A vocational or professional school is designed to provide training. Not only is the purpose of the two different, the audience and methods of the two are different.
Some years ago people noticed that those with a university education tend to earn more than those without. It was a valid observation at the time but misapplied causation. So, a lot of people went to the university so that they could earn more money. But, they had placed causation where it doesn’t belong. It’s not the university education in itself that was the reason for all of those people earning more money – there were (and still are) a lot of other factors involved in that process.
With all of those extra people in the university it was noted that these folks still need a normal job when they graduate. In order to get one of those you will generally need some marketable skill. One way to get a marketable skill is through training so the idea was suggested that the university should be providing that training instead of so much “Mickey Mouse” “education”.
In other words, since so many people are now going to the university, the university should adapt and become a vocational training ground and sort of apprenticeship facility instead of the historical role it once held. Many have. Many that haven’t have at least become a hybrid.
The result – in order to get the higher education that once defined the higher earning levels you must go to grad school. The bachelor’s degree has taken the socioeconomic position held by the secondary school/HS diploma only 30 years ago and the working and middle class have stepped backward in earnings over time because they wasted 4-5 years on education when what they really needed was training and work experience.
The solution to this debacle is that we need a new layer in the system. We need a 4-year technical/vocational school program that is facility based and helps those who will be seeking working/middle class employment navigate that process preparation. It doesn’t presently exist. Trying to make the generalized broad education of a typical bachelor’s degree equate to the specialized technical training needed in the entry-level workforce is a waste of time and resources. Not to mention being frustrating to the people who spent four years at the university expecting to be training for a job who instead were prepared for a socioeconomic level they aren’t going to reach.
But, we still need the university because there’s still that 25% of society that needs to acquire that generalized broad education and won’t be needing an entry level technically trained position. Some of them will train for specific workplace positions but they’ll do so at the graduate/professional school level.