Career schools: Choice or necessity (1)?, Laide R. Alexander
The reality here is that changes in today’s global market make career or vocational schools attractive.
Even though Nigeria is a developing country, we are still impacted by globalization based on some of the characteristics of our economy or preferably our socio-economic status.
As we know, globalization creates greater opportunities for firms and organizations in less industrialized countries to tap into more and larger markets around the world. Being an active participant in the global market also allows those of us in less industrialized countries to become part of international production networks and supply chains that are the main conduits of trade. This will and can happen quicker by providing educational platforms that are not only theory based but hands –on as well.
In the past we were taught to think globally and act locally – In this new era, this 21st century, the reality is that we think and act globally. The fact is that, we are no longer locked into the placed-based model of schooling, so we have no need to follow the same old rules. Instead of adhering to only four-by-four plan or 6-3-3-4 plan (which ends in 4 years of college), the new breed of global students are getting a “raging” education on campus, online, on the road, and on their terms and timelines. Not only are they not obsessing about the names of their alma mater, they are figuring out how to blend a perfect brew of education options that will allow them to glide into the global economy.
It should be noted that I’m not opposed to a four-year degree; instead, I’m simply making a strong case for an option that many people overlook when deciding what to do after high school. The fact is that there are pros and cons to both career colleges and traditional colleges. A traditional college education provides students with a broader knowledge base and does not typically involve a lot of hands on or practical education. Instead it focuses on the theories of subjects. Because of this, graduates often find themselves unemployed after school because jobs are going to those who already have experience and specific training.
In developing countries like Nigeria, it is imperative that we adopt the necessity of having career schools and making it accessible to students who prefer it. The fact that a career school offers hands on training, job experience through internship and a good education at a much lower cost is a major benefit of receiving degrees from career colleges or schools. Applicable consideration should be given to this educational platform, because students can often find a career school in their area that offers classes in the fields that they are considering working or gaining a profession. Because of this, the exorbitant costs of rooms and boards often associated with traditional universities can be avoided, unless, of course, the school also caters to non-local students. In addition, admission is usually more open in career schools. This means that those who could not get into traditional schools can still have access to a good education and the tools that are necessary to acquire a fulfilling and successful career.
It is the goal of career schools to ensure that the curricula are focused on a specific field and as students get further along in the process, classes focus on the actual duties they will perform when they begin working in the real world. This removes the scary disconnect that often exists between what a student at a four year school is trained to do and what they are actually expected to do when they hit the ground at a new job, assuming they can get one right out of college.
Another benefit of a focused education is the fact that graduate students can join the workforce faster than they would be able to manage at a four year school. That means that they have more time in their professional lives to establish themselves as experts in their fields.
Many would argue that the starting salaries for graduates of career colleges are less than what a graduate with a bachelor’s degree might expect. While this is true in some cases, in other cases such as in technical industries, this could not be further from the truth.
In short, there are benefits and drawbacks to both kinds of education, and a student’s choice usually reflects their overall life goals and ambitions. An associate degree or diploma from a good career college or school is an asset and a good investment. I believe that educational entities, government and private sectors would want to ensure that the quality of education offered by career colleges and schools is every bit as good as that which is offered by traditional four year universities.
Even though, the global market is starting to shift to competency-based educational platforms, the fact still remains that for a lot of people, going to a four-year college seems like an automatic choice when they graduate from high school, not a choice based on the natural abilities of the students nor results from assessment tests based on natural mental capacity and desired future goals. Some of the reasons include – higher income, family norm, and general expectation. The myth here is that a bachelor’s degree accounted for an average of $14,600 (using the US Dollars as a test case) in additional income per year compared to a high school diploma or career school diploma. The fact is that, this is not true any longer and it does not apply to all disciplines.
A graduate that works in a bank is likely to earn less than a high school student who attended a 12-24 months (one-two year) course in a course like process technology. Also due to the increasingly high costs associated with a college education and other draw backs, it is highly important that government and or private sectors consider providing students with alternative educational options such as trade or career schools.
Beside the expenses attached to four year college (vs. the amount attached to a career school), the length of schooling, drop out and late graduation rates, and the poor condition of educational curricula, job prospects for new graduates may not be as bright as they had expected. Although some college majors are faring better than others when it comes to labour market outcomes, Over the past decade, graduates have faced sluggish labour markets, young graduates are faced with limited job opportunities and difficulty paying off incurred educational expenses. College degrees are a career investment that require a considerable amount of both time and money, and the portion of graduates who are unable to find desirable employment (or employment at all!) are seeing negative returns. That is one of the major problem plaguing developing countries like ours.
Certainly, it is true and important that we rapidly grow our technology base in general, and technology is certainly a way to emancipate our people and country economically, but that does not mean we should increase the number of years that the students will use to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge, particularly in today’s fast-paced global market. What I propose we do is to provide state of the art resources, equipment and highly competent instructors that will provide hands on training for the student in focused areas, so that upon completing at least a 12-24 months course in specific field, not only will they be able to apply their didactic knowledge, but they will also be able to learn their hands on career on a daily basis. This will also prepare them for the work force and create little to no additional hands on training at work, except for the company’s onboarding process and orientation.
I believe that Nigeria should certainly become the catalyst for economic emancipation for other continents, however, I will say that what is needed at this point again, is not the number of years used in being schooled, particularly in technology, rather it is the engineering of a competency based educational platform, that will create a quick and sustainable socio-economic growth in Nigeria.
Again, it should be noted that I’m not opposed to a four-year degree; instead, I’m simply making a strong case for an option that many people overlook when deciding what to do after high school. And also asking government parties and non- governmental parties to consider the importance of competency based education as a resource that will become one of the marquis of educational platforms in the nearest future.
The fact still remains that it’s not everyone that will attend a four year college or that may even have the mental health, capacity, learning style and skill set for a four year college, but everyone is capable and can learn. For our citizens that are hands-on learner, the excitement of getting out of the classroom and starting to work immediately after high school or completion of their vocation, keeps them engaged and foster a higher completion rate in the schools.
Going back to the basics; in most developing countries, like ours, Nigeria; and considering the economic status, fewer and fewer children graduate from secondary school and many don’t even finish primary school, these are a sure indication that the educational system needs to be reformed and revolutionized at the same time.
In Part 2, we will focus on: “The Necessity of Educational Flexibility.”
• Alexander writes from Houston, Texas, United States of America.