It seems that further education is not producing productive graduates with a valuable skill set. As a result, young graduates are not able to find jobs and a lot of them are having to do unpaid internships.
Just the other day when I was out for dinner I had a quick chat with a waitress. She said that she had a degree in “Conservation Management” and that she was not able to find a job. “The jobs are very competitive to get, because it’s such a needed skill set”, she said. As a result she was doing an unpaid internship “to gain experience”, which would hopefully allow her to get a job.
I didn’t say anything at the time, but I couldn’t help but think that the skill set she had acquired really was not valuable or needed. If your skill set is really needed by society then there would be plenty of jobs and you wouldn’t have to work for free – you’d be getting paid a premium!
For example, if you’re a doctor – you will never be out of a job in this current climate. Your salary will also be in the upper percentiles of society.
Equally, people who are good at computer science and software engineering are very much-needed at present. People can teach themselves Code online and after a few months they can get quite lucrative jobs – again this is a needed skill set.
So what’s going on here? Why have people gotten into their mid 20’s only to realise that they haven’t got a skill set which can get them a job? In short, I think it’s because education has been massively dumbed down in the last few decades.
When I was in Primary School, I used to make frequent trips to Bangladesh with my mother. She was born and raised there. I remember hanging out with my cousins while there. I used to get amazed at how much maths they would know and how they had been taught to speak English at such a young age.
The maths I was taught in England was nothing in comparison. In Primary school my cousins were already studying algebra which I would only encounter 5 years down the line in England.
Not only did this disparity in knowledge shock me, but the whole education system in Bangladesh was alien to me. It turned out that you could fail a year! In England, this never happens. Everyone starts the year at the same time and they finish the year at the same time. Sure there are tests, but these are more so for parents and teachers to be aware of. There is no negative consequence in doing badly in a test in England. And it certainly won’t result in you being held back a year.
This type of education – where you can’t fail – continues all the way up to people are eighteen years old in England – when they are then gently coerced into going to University.
In Bangladesh, if you fail, then you fail. If you keep failing and end up being 18 years old in a class full of ten years old, then you are told that perhaps it’s best to give up on this education malarkey and go get a job instead of aspiring to be a University graduate.
What happened in England and the rest of the Western World is that society as a whole couldn’t tolerate people not being educated. It seems that part of the reasoning was that if existing successful people and people who create wealth went to University, then surely the more people we get to go through the whole system, the more wealth and jobs we can create.
The problem is that “Conservation Management” and “Media Studies” are not the same as “Law” or “Medicine”. This is very clear now. If you don’t have a skill set that is valued by society then you won’t be able to get a job or generate wealth.
However, there is one more factor which has resulted in the education system being dumbed down and one that I have never heard mentioned. This factor has not only destroyed the education system, but it affects all organisations and is the source of many inefficiencies and dysfunction.
Say for example we take a class full of Year 7’s (in England this is the 7th year of compulsory education). At the end of the year we make them all sit an exam. If they get above a certain percentage then they pass the year and get to progress up to Year 8. Those that fail have to remain in the Year 7 class along with the people who passed their Year 6 end of year exam.
All sounds very good so far! And in fact this is how things are ran in countries such as Bangladesh.
However if we let the system described above run for several years what will happen? It’s likely you’ll end up with a Year 7 class full of people who can’t pass the end of year exam. You will basically get a build up of people who have reached their educational limit.
This would have a very negative impact on the rest of the class. The less smart pupils would negatively affect the bright students and you’ll end up with even more people failing. The natural solution would be to reduce the pass mark and make the exam easier so that you don’t get a build up of incompetents in one class.
This seems to be what has happened in the education system in England. And over the last few decades things have been continually dumbed down all the way up to the University level. At the same time there was a push by the government to get more people into University. This concoction of ensuring everyone passes all the time and getting everyone to go the whole way with education has resulted in worthless degrees and with degrees which necessitate supplantation with a PhD to mean anything.
The fact is that “unpaid internships” result in real world experience and skill sets. For many this is the one that is needed.
So far we have established that people are allowed to progress even if they should not. We have established that this doesn’t magically result in valuable skill sets being acquired or the wealth to be generated.
But what happens if we allow people to progress up until they reach their potential? This is the system that is prevalent in most organisations and companies.
Say for example we take an administrative employee from a large organisation. She works hard, she up-skills and gets valuable experience in the real world. Over the years she moves up the ranks of the organisation. She used to be very organised, she used to be able to deal with her tasks above and beyond that was required. However, now that she has reached this high position she is finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the work. Her new job also requires that she gives speeches and talk to different clients. The person in question has never been the extroverted type. As a result she keeps making mistakes, she is late to meet her deadlines, a lot of clients don’t get on with her. The person in this example has reached her “level of incompetence”.
This is what usually happens in all large organisations. People keep getting promoted when they are doing well, but they stop being promoted when they are struggling in their current position. What happens when you get an organisation full of people who have reached their level of incompetence? Well you get scenarios like the following:
Me: “Hello, I would like to order a tuna pizza.”
Restaurant person: “I’m sorry, that only comes to £8.00. We only deliver on orders over £10.00.”
Me: “Oh, that’s alright. I really won’t be able to eat anything more, so I’ll pay £10.00 for the pizza.”
Restaurant person: “Oh…….Hmmmm….We can’t do that…”
Me: “What do you mean? You’re still getting the required amount which I’m happy to pay”.
Restaurant person: “I don’t think we can do this. Are you sure you don’t want something else?”
Me: “No thank you. I don’t see why this isn’t possible….Do you think you can speak to your manager about this?”
Wait for three minutes
Manager: “I’m sorry we’ve kept you waiting. This is absolutely fine. We’ll get this delivered right away.”
Now in this example it may be that the first person on the phone that I spoke with was just new and learning on the job. However, more often than not, these occurrences happen due to the person in question having reached their level of incompetence.
Clearly then the solution to a lot of societies problems is to not dumb things down and to stop people progressing before they have reached their level of incompetence. I don’t see many people agreeing with this essay however, so I suppose we will continue to live in a society which gets dumber and retain its dysfunction.