College education has become a focal point in society, no matter where you stand. Those without degrees see them as the stepping stone to a better life, a key that opens doors to untold opportunity, while many employer see it as a requirement to work, an indicator that a person is ready for the jobs market. While this is the reality, the question is: should it be? Should college education remain the be-all and end-all of job eligibility in America?
There’s no doubt that education is absolutely necessary for skill acquisition, but here’s an interesting set of statistics: while 72% of educational institutions believe they’re adequately preparing students for college, only 45% of graduates feel the same way. Additionally, 39% of employers around the world are reporting that grads lack the right set of skills for even entry-level jobs. The question then becomes, are students seeking higher education in the right places?
STEM: The Focal Point
Interestingly, STEM areas seem to have been the focal point for this debate, especially as political pundits weigh in with their opinions. It was announced in late June that HRC wants to offer green cards to STEM grads that aren’t already citizens, while majors such as Architecture & Engineering, Social Sciences, and Computer Sciences project ROIs consisting of a median annual salary of between $33,000 and $50,000 in the first three years after graduating.
The promises that people automatically tack to a STEM education is alluring–which makes some wonder if students are turning blindly to those subjects without knowing whether or not they actually want to spend the rest of their lives committed to a STEM career of some kind. The drive to just go to college in general seems like it could be contributing to this type of phenomenon–but another possibility is that employers either have standards that are too high, or are looking at the wrong skillsets.
College Ain’t What It Used To Be…
Students are beginning to recognize that even though STEM majors offer the best ROI, a yearly salary at $33,000 looks pretty small when you begin to look at how much college actually costs. $33K/year will net you less than the average cost of an out-of-state public school education ($34,000/year) and barely more than a public in-state experience ($19,584/year), both including tuition, fees, room and board–and forget about four-year private college (a whopping $44,000/year).
For these reasons, you’ll see many more fiscally-conscious job-applicants coming from community colleges and technical schools who are committed to landing a middle-skills job and training upward. While businesses might think it a waste to have to train employees they feel should already be trained, the simple fact is that you’re either going to have to offer on-the-job training for most people with or without a college degree.
Education Matters–But In Different Ways Than You Realize
This is natural, when you think about it–digital disruption has changed the game for nearly everybody. Everybody is constantly having to train and re-train, and train again as new products and software is introduced into the workplace. The best companies aren’t focused on how far their employees are before they even get in the door, but on how far they can take those employees once they’re there.
Employers that invest in training and growing employees are the ones that will succeed in a market rife with change.