Taking Stock with Carol Massar and Michael McKee.
Author Nicholas Wyman Discussing his book “Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need”
Rare’s Kurt Wallace interviews guest Nicholas Wyman CEO at Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation about the new book Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need.
The discussion includes professional certification, the skills gap, and new ways to unlock the individual’s true potential through ongoing training and attaining role specific professional skills.
Jan 14, 2015
Taking Stock with Carol Massar and Michael McKee. Guest and Author Nicholas Wyman Discussing his book “Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need”
On January 8, President Obama announced a proposal to make the first two years of community college “free for everybody who is willing to work for it,” with states providing a quarter of the funding and the remaining cost covered by the federal government. The announcement captured the nation’s attention; at the time of writing this, #FreeCommunityCollege was trending as a top conversation on Twitter.
The White House confirmed that if all states participate in the program, approximately nine million students are likely to benefit each year, with each student saving an average of $3,800 in tuition fees annually. But as impressive as that figure is, this proposal is about much more than saving nine million college students a couple of thousands of dollars. Aside from helping to ease the heavy burden of student debt that’s gripping our nation, this program has the potential to be one of the most positive and powerful steps in narrowing the ever-growing skills gap in America. Right now, over 9.1 million Americans are unemployed with millions of others underemployed. Yet at the same time, 4.8 million jobs remain unfilled, because there simply isn’t a big enough pool of applicants who possess the right practical, technical, and job-ready skills to do the work companies need.
Free community college could change all that.
While not all the details are yet clear, they so far indicate that participating colleges would have to meet certain academic requirements, with preference given to degrees in high-demand fields. And this is what gets at the heart of the promise to close America’s skills gap, ensuring that the millions of students who receive this government assistance will be trained and educated in the skills that add the most value—and will be the most valued—by 21st-century companies. And by this I mean skills that equip them for the jobs of tomorrow; jobs in lucrative and rapidly expanding fields like information technology, computer science, robotics, health care, and advanced manufacturing. And they’ll get to do it at little or no cost.
If widely implemented, not only will this ambitious free community college program expand educational and employment opportunities across the US, it could be the essential ingredient needed to ensure a more prosperous economic future for years to come.
1. Americans need the right skills to compete on the global stage
Globalization and computer-driven automation are squeezing more and more lower-skill jobs out of the US economy, and things are likely to get tougher in the years ahead. An occupation-oriented associate degree, the type of degree earned at a community or technical college, will enable the next generation of Americans to acquire the knowledge and the skills companies need to stay competitive in our global economy, while at the same time reducing levels of unemployment, particularly the number of jobs lost to off-shoring and outsourcing.
2. Free community college will lower the levels of student loan debt crippling the US economy
Total US student loan debt has reached a record $1.2 trillion dollars, crippling students, parents and the economy at large. In fact, student loan debt accounts for 6% of America’s overall national debt, a higher percentage than credit card debt and second only to mortgage-related debts. The average 4-year college graduate leaving school saddled with $30,000 in debt, a number that has doubled over the past decade.
And not only are tens of millions of people currently saddled with mountains of outstanding student debt, default rates are at an all-time high; indeed, according to the most recent numbers, one in 10 borrowers default on their loans within the first two years of repayment. Worse yet, it’s not just the graduating students who are faced with massive debt, but in many cases parents are also taking—and in many cases defaulting on loans—in a well-meaning effort to support their children’s futures.
And the cost of education is skyrocketing: The accumulated cost of college tuition has soared by over 1,000% since the late 1970s. This college debt bubble, as many economists have called it, will only continue to inflate. That is, unless we come up with some ways—like Obama’s recent proposal—to incentivize students to pursue a free community college education instead of racking up mountains of debt at a 4-year university or college.
3. Most thriving economies place far more emphasis on vocational education than the US—and that’s no coincidence
If you look at the US secondary education system in comparison to the rest of the world, one factor becomes apparent: most economically healthy nations place far more emphasis on vocational education than America. Switzerland, for example, has very low unemployment, particularly among its youth – around 3%, in fact – and a highly trained workforce. This is also true of other northern and central European countries, where vocational education is part of the mainstream education system.
In these countries, vocational education plays an important role in assisting high school students make the transition from high school to the world of work. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland, after grade 10, between 40 and 70% of high school students opt for vocational education, which combines both classroom and on-the-job learning over three years. On completion, the students are equipped with a qualification that carries real weight in the labor market, reducing unemployment and under-employment levels of young graduates, and also providing a pathway into even higher levels of education and earnings.
4. Vocationally-trained people earn sizable salaries
Community college educations do not tend to confer the same level of status as a four-year degree on a graduate. But, you can’t take status to the bank, as many liberal arts grads from highly touted institutions will be quick to tell you. In fact, many associate degree holders enjoy better employment and earning prospects than their collegiate counterparts, and one-third of them start at higher pay levels. Holders of occupational associate degrees also command a wage premium over peers who have earned associate degrees in non-occupational fields: on average $9,000 more per year. And if the associate degree is in a high-demand field such as health care, he or she can earn an average annual earning premium of almost $20,000. And of course, higher earning potential results in a number of “trickle up” benefits for the US economy, like more people with more money to spend on goods and services.
5. Vocationally-trained people are upwardly mobile
An associate degree is not a terminal award. Many holders go on to earn baccalaureate and graduate degrees—and still higher salaries—especially after a few years working and gaining experience in their respective fields. Twenty-seven percent of US baccalaureate degree-holders in recent years, in fact, have come up through the community college system, and many of them go on to earn high level jobs a variety of lucrative fields.
6. It’s time to move past the stigma associated with vocational education
Many people think that community college leads straight to middle-skills jobs that are menial and low-paying, with no opportunities for advancement. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The reality is that today, there are a bevy of respectable, well-compensated, upwardly mobile careers that don’t require a traditional four-year education; and they found not just in expected places like the world of manufacturing but in a variety of fascinating and prestigious fields like sales/marketing, architecture, culinary arts, and other creative fields.
Yet despite this fact, vocational study has a history of being seen as less respectable than attending university. But with unemployment and underemployment rates of college graduates at such high levels in the US, it’s time for this perception to change. It’s time to spread the word that skills training, perhaps now more than ever, is possibly the most reliable pathway to an interesting and rewarding career.
So while some may ask “why should my taxes be funding handouts,” the answer is simple. As long as we have a skills gap—as long as we have people without jobs and jobs without people—the economy will not be able to reach its full potential. Free community college for all is the first step in bridging this gap and giving each one of us a shot at a brighter and better future.
Linked In –
If you’re about to finish high school, or have been out for some time but haven’t quite figured out your next move, a tall stack of college brochures and student loan applications may be crowding out a wealth of other information about the myriad alternative educational options for next September. That may because your guidance counselor – like the majority of today’s guidance counselors – has recommended college as your next step after high school graduation – without stopping to consider if it’s the option that’s best for you. Or it might be because your parents are convinced – wrongly – that a four-year degree is all that stands between you and a life of low-income, dead-end work. Or maybe it’s simply because the societal myth of “college for everyone” is so pervasive, pursuing another alternative has never even occurred to you. That’s a shame because with the serious financial investment a four-year college degree requires, it’s a decision that should not be made lightly. And in truth there are many ways to begin building a resume and jumpstart a career without necessarily heading straight to college. A liberal arts degree is the perfect choice for some people, but if it is just a default choice because you aren’t sure of what to do next, it may be a big investment that doesn’t deliver on its return.
In today’s job market, gaining hands-on experience is often the far better way to build a resume. Moreover, work experience can also inform career decisions so that if you do decide to continue with school, you have a better sense of exactly what path you want to pursue, ensuring that no investment made in your education is wasted.
Transferable workplace skills like problem-solving, team-building and critical thinking are a huge commodity in today’s job market. Here are some ways to get these skills and build up a great resume, instead of simply hitting the default button and going straight to college
1. Take a “gap year” and make the most of it
For people who know exactly why they are going to college and what they have to gain from their degree, college is a great choice. But many young people are uncertain about what they want to study, or how relevant their course of study might actually be in the job market. In this case, taking a year off school to explore other opportunities can be invaluable. The key is using the gap year to gain self-knowledge, as well as some practical experience.
Use this time to try out different things. Travel if possible, but see if you can do more than just go backpacking. There are numerous opportunities to do volunteer work overseas, building houses or libraries, working with children, cultivating land, language tutoring—you name it. Many apprenticeships and traineeships offer these kinds of opportunities as well, along with a paycheck. Structured travel is a great way to not only build confidence, but all the soft skills that come with working in a professional environment as well.
2. Follow your passions, not just a paycheck
For some, the gap year might turn into three or four years, or more. A life-changing apprenticeship could lead to rewarding work in a particular field for several years before deciding to pursue a degree, as it did for me. It’s important to see one’s career as constantly evolving, and take advantage of the many opportunities to acquire stackable credentials. By choosing opportunities that genuinely reflect your interests, you’ll add experience, knowledge and skills to your resume naturally.
3. Pursue online courses and certifications
Offered at many local community colleges, these can be an inexpensive way to explore an interest without making a huge commitment. Many are offered evenings and weekends, so you can work and earn a living while gaining practical skills to add to your resume.
4. Try out an entry-level jobs related to your field
Often, a year or two of experience on the ground floor of a career or field can be a huge competitive advantage – and accelerate your ascension up the ladder. For someone interested in hospitality or customer relations, a job in a restaurant or café would be a great place to start. For someone with an affinity for architecture or design, work on a construction or painting crew would make more sense. Seek out entry-level job opportunities in your field of interest and use the experience as a springboard.
5. Take your online reputation seriously
In a world where technology has increased our ability to connect and be visible, the use of online platforms can work to our advantage…or disadvantage. Every day, we are building or damaging our online reputation. Hiring managers and employers will notice, so it’s important to be deliberate with the use of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. Consider them part of your resume, and be as careful to manage the image they project.
These platforms can also be a big help in building a network of potential employers or clients. Create a sharp, well-written LinkedIn profile that demonstrates your practical, real world skills and experience, and update it regularly. Be sure to list all your specific unique skills and abilities –whether they be a certification in mixology, the knowledge of HTML or a programming language, or the ability to wire a circuit board – not just your work history or educational experience. And remember that thoughtful, diligent network building with other skilled professionals can lead to job opportunities you might not hear of otherwise.
‘Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success by Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need’
by Nicholas Wyman
Job U quickly shot to #1 on the Amazon Hot New Releases in Job Hunting and Career Guides.
It has been awarded Best Business Careers book in the International Book Awards.
And won USA Best Book Awards, Business: Careers category.
Get ready to relearn everything you thought you knew about what a successful career path looks like.