There are several problems with the American higher education system. For example, a higher education is expensive and many students graduate owing thousands of dollars in debt. Also, some colleges are very selective and students cannot go to these schools, even if they want to. However, when Michael Bettersworth, an associate vice chancellor at the Texas State Technical College System, was asked what the biggest problem was, he pointed out a problem that does not usually come to mind.
“Houston, we have a problem, and it’s not that too few people are going to college,” he said. “It’s that too many people are getting degrees with limited value in the job market.”
Oh, yeah, that’s a problem that definitely had not popped to the front of my mind. However, when you think about it, it does make sense. There are many people who choose to study a subject that does not directly prepare them for a job. For example, I have a friend who studied philosophy at a very prestigious school. After graduation, he could not find a job and ended up working as a restaurant manager.
Evidently my friend’s story is not that uncommon. Many students across the nation are earning college credits but do not know if their majors will ever lead them to employment in their chosen field.
So what should students study in order to guarantee themselves a job post-graduation? Perhaps they should consider a skilled trade.
“It’s not that we don’t need engineers and Ph.D.’s and research scientists,” said Joe Arnold, a government affairs manager with B.A.S.F., a chemical company. “We do, but that’s not all we need. We need skilled craftsmen. We need operators.”
These job positions are actually in higher demand today than they have been in the past because the people who have held these positions are getting older and approaching retirement.
So, does that mean that students should be signing up for courses at community colleges instead of universities if they want a job?
It seems counter-intuitive to encourage students not to attain the highest level of education that they are capable of, but it might just be the best idea if these students actually want to be employed after finishing their educations. Leo Danna, 20, is one of those students who is following this path to a job. Danna attended Tarleton State University but enrolled at the Texas State Technical College after two years at the university. He says the switch was a good idea for him.
“That kind of college [Tarleton State University] wasn’t right for me,” Danna said. “I couldn’t focus and didn’t understand what I was going to do when I graduated. Here, in the first semester, you’re already talking to companies in your field.”