The Liberal Arts education that has been the push for the past five decades has not delivered what was intended. Slowly in the halls of academia this is being recognized. There are changes underway to address some of the issues. Internet lectures offered for free is one of them.
I want to explore a different direction. One that is tried and proven and comes from Germany. You have heard me say that the battle of the coming decades will be for talented personnel. I have no idea how long this will exist but it will be for some time as the needs and the resources will be slowly rebalanced.
Peter Drucker once said the brightest future business opportunity for going to be in adult re-education. Retraining people who have had the value of their skills eroded as productivity increases have brought dramatic changes. But that does not address the young people starting out in the work force. How do they get opportunities? When the Universities are too expensive (see student loan debate) and the product (the student) that they deliver doesn’t fit the needs of society something is terribly wrong.
In Germany there is a partnership between schools, business and yes even government. “Germany’s apprenticeship programs and its renown as the standard bearer of quality manufacturing are helping companies rejuvenate their workforce with foreigners eager to escape economic malaise at home” – Bloomberg online.
“Germany’s unique educational approach is rooted in a guild system dating back centuries. Trainees receive a modest salary during their education and most get a job offer once they complete their apprenticeships. The country’s vocational training system combines practical training with classroom sessions and has companies pitching in, offering more than half a million high-school graduate’s annually hands-on education in hundreds of professions as well as a respected alternative to a university degree. With the government paying for the schools, the system has helped keep youth unemployment at 7.9%, the lowest rate in Europe.”
We have some schools leading the way with advanced degrees in Industrial Distribution, or partnerships between equipment dealers/distributors and manufacturers of construction equipment and State Universities. But much more needs to be done. The image of vocational schools has been besmirched with the message from colleges and universities over the years that vocational school was a code word for education for the low skilled workers. Nothing could be further from the truth but it fit nicely into the political messages pronounced over the decades. This self-aggrandizing approach from politicians and ivory tower educators has badly hurt two generations, so far hopefully it is going to change soon. The time is now.