In casting about for a blog topic this weekend, I came across an interesting press release amongst recent CompTIA offerings in that genre. It’s entitled “Poor Information on Career Opportunities is Costing Students Jobs.” If I understand it correctly it reports on a recent CompTIA survey that indicates that “respondents … want schools and universities to do a lot more to help them understand career options…” including
- “… information integrated into school lessons about what careers different subjects can lead to”
- “… information about careers other than those directly related to their field of study”
- “… better careers advice at school or university”
Please note that this PR ditty was posted in London, so you are seeing some Britishisms in the copy, which I reproduce verbatim in the preceding quotes.
This actually raises an interesting issue–namely, to what extent an educational institution should be responsible for informing students about career opitions and even helping those students find their way into gainful employment. I always thought academia was called “the ivory tower” in part because it remained indifferent to and unsullied by such concerns, and also because its interests were very often elsewhere: pure research, advancing the general body of knowledge, imparting learning skills and knowledge to students, and so forth.
Certainly, I think the educational institutions should be mindful of real-world and employment consequences for their students, but I don’t believe it’s entirely fair to shackle them with outright responsibility for steering them into the workforce and helping them find jobs. But certainly, some kinds of institutions — particularly community colleges and trade schools — are chartered with a role in workforce preparation for their students and these players probably should take a more active role in laying out employment consequences and real-world options and choices. Many of them already do.
But I don’t think it’s fair to hold education responsible for this kind of thing. Rather, I think it is reasonable to ask educators to pay attention to these issues and to address them to some extent in their teaching, but it shouldn’t be a primary focus in that work (that belongs to the subject matter at hand, and in making sure students understand them, and know how to apply their knowledge to real-world situations).
As I think back on my own path through higher education, and look at how friends and family in my parent’s generation, my generation, and my children’s generation have worked themselves from school into work, I see a lot of forces at work. Certainly, those who pay for education — family and the person receiving the education — shoulder the biggest responsibilities in making sure an investment in learning delivers appropriate opportunities and a reasonable payoff. Students also choose particular individuals as examples or mentors, and will often turn to them for advice about what to study, what kind of work to pursue, and where and how to find a job.
I do believe it would be helpful for educational institutions to be mindful that a productive working life should be part of the post-graduate payoff for their students, and to do their part in helping them attain this reasonable and laudable goal. But there are a lot more players in this game than the schools, and it’s a mistake to put too much of the information delivery and responsibility into their hands.