Friday, August 16, 2019

What You Need to Know About Career-Related Instruction

The August Northeast Pennsylvania Business Journal had a 16-page section headlined its “2019 Adult Education Guide.”  It presented articles provided by a variety of learning-program providers explaining what courses they had and what they could do for those taking them.  They ranged from The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education (I didn’t know there even was such a thing), master’s degrees at East Stroudsburg University, “straight-to-career training certificates” from Northampton Community College, a cybersecurity program, and Johnson College’s diesel truck technology credential.  Here are 11 observations on this career-related area.

First, as above, there are a lot of programs and they vary widely.  The target area of this 33-year-old publication has fewer than a million people, and is probably roughly nationally representative as to economic strength, diversity of jobs, formal education levels, and so on.  A similar compendium for the New York area could be in the hundreds of pages.

Second, such programs are best when the school and the hirers are connected and the latter can strongly influence the former, by relating honestly what program graduates need to be chosen.  The gap between becoming qualified and actually getting a job can be huge, and responsibility for making it as small as possible ultimately falls on the schools.  Third, the in-field getting-hired rate is the most important statistic such organizations can offer.  Fourth, with those two things said there is nothing wrong with for-profit course providers as such. 

Fifth, those considering further instruction need to analyze the target field, including its current state, its prospects several years out, and its long-term viability.  Choosing a Lasting Career is now six years old, but anyone considering putting a large chunk of their lives and money need to look at the same factors as in that book, namely resistance to robotics, susceptibility to improvements in computing and connectivity, chance for a good living wage, family and outside activities compatibility, local-boundness, typical work conditions, and more. 

Sixth, while certificate programs should zero in on specific competencies, overly specific bachelor’s degree programs can fail when narrowly targeted objectives do not materialize.  Nobody expects coursework in air conditioning repair to provide guidance for a life’s worth of thinking, but conventional four-year experiences should do just that. 

Seventh, community colleges are good choices, as they provide well-focused training at bargain prices. 

Eighth, while employment-focused training is often excellent for individuals, as a matter of public policy it is ineffective for cutting joblessness, as it tends only to change who gets work, rather than the total number of people thus successful.

Ninth, students need to consider where the jobs are in their fields of interest, and know if they will need to relocate.

Tenth, nonspecific career credentials, such as M.B.A. programs, usually have very weak connections with employers, so those considering them should determine first if they will be sufficient, when combined with their existing assets, to get them working in the field they want. 

Eleventh, as I advised people as a business professor, anything called “adult education” requires participants to act that way.  College for 18 to 22-year-olds serves purposes other than learning and credential acquisition, but these programs really don’t.  Students should always or almost always attend classes, do assignments in good faith, and complete all work required.  Such things as all-night agonizing over three to five-page papers need to come to an end.  Adult learners will find that if they focus on their assignments and complete them, that will be good enough if not perfect, and they will then pass their courses and complete their objectives.  That is why they are spending their time, effort, and money to be there.  If people get the most from adult learning programs, they may benefit greatly – accordingly, If such training is at all suitable and clearly leads to jobs, I strongly recommend it. 

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