If your life-long ambition is to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer, a college education is unavoidable. But what if you just want to earn a decent living?
Several weeks ago, my car was at the local dealership to have its timing belt replaced – something that is done at the 60K mark. The technician who had originally told the the service guy that my 2008 Hyundai had a belt rather than a chain discovered that the 2008 model year was split between belts and chains. My car was in the second half of the year and had a chain, which never needs replacing, saving me about $300.00. The dealership, bless their hearts, washed my car for me anyway.
When I picked up my car, I met the young technician who worked on my car. Scott was 28 years old, personable, soft spoken, and clearly loved his job. Okay – he was cute, too.
He used to work at a Hyundai dealership, but was caught off guard by that model year being split between chains and belts.
He’s been an auto technician for 8 years. I asked him if he went to school for his career and he named a well-known technical college. Never one to be shy, I further inquired as to the cost. Surprisingly, it was $28K for the entire course. That’s equivalent to what many people spend for one year in a 4-year college, often graduating with a completely useless degree, and as much as $80K to $100K in school loan debt. It’s takes a long time to pay off that kind of debt when you’re working as a barista at Starbucks.
So at the age of 20 or 21, Scott was already earning a very good income, while the future barista was still having the “experience of a lifetime” in a 4-year college. In terms of salary, Scott earned about $150K, not counting benefits, during those 3 extra years and was doing something he loved.
So why this insistence that everyone must go to college?
Mike Rowe, who runs the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, awards scholarships to students pursuing a career in the skilled trades. He was also the host of the former TV show “Dirty Jobs”, and continues to try raising awareness of what we call “blue collar” jobs.
Just a few days ago, a person wrote a letter to Mike, deriding his approach to “work ethic”, calling it “right wing propaganda.”
Mike’s reply was epic.
A few excerpts:
You wrote that, “people want to work.” In my travels, I’ve met a lot of hard-working individuals, and I’ve been singing their praises for the last 12 years. But I’ve seen nothing that would lead me to agree with your generalization. From what I’ve seen of the species, and what I know of myself, most people – given the choice – would prefer NOT to work. In fact, on Dirty Jobs, I saw Help Wanted signs in every state, even at the height of the recession. Is it possible you see the existence of so many unfilled jobs as a challenge to your basic understanding of what makes people tick?
Last week at a policy conference in Mackinac, I talked to several hiring managers from a few of the largest companies in Michigan. They all told me the same thing – the biggest under reported challenge in finding good help, (aside from the inability to “piss clean,”) is an overwhelming lack of “soft skills.” That’s a polite way of saying that many applicants don’t tuck their shirts in, or pull their pants up, or look you in the eye, or say things like “please” and “thank you.” This is not a Michigan problem – this is a national crisis. We’re churning out a generation of poorly educated people with no skill, no ambition, no guidance, and no realistic expectations of what it means to go to work. source
So back to my question: Why this insistence that everyone must go to college?
Obama would like everyone to have a free community college education, otherwise known as high school grades 13 and 14. Why? And who’s going to pay for this?
High schools also base much of their success on how many of their graduates go on to college. Why?
Who benefits by the student loan industry? Mike mentioned the staggering figure of 1.2 trillion dollars of outstanding student loans.
Our government, by backing these loans, is not only creating future generations of debt slaves, but making the cost of college skyrocket.
Don’t fall for it. If you’re a parent, teach your children skills that may inflame a hankering for a specific trade. Don’t denigrate “blue collar trades”, because when your plumbing goes south, your electric panel breaks, you need a new garage, or even a haircut, you won’t be calling that barista who has a degree in women’s studies.
Adrienne blogs at Adrienne’s Corner on any number of subjects – most of which she knows nothing about.