Reading Wendy Jacob’s great blog recently on managing candidate expectations – particularly those of students. She came to the (in my opinion) very rational conclusion that no-one really manages student expectations effectively. Read the full post here – I went to comment on this, but felt I had somewhat more to say. I don’t want to go being controversial on someone else’s blog, so I figured I should come home for this next bit.
Here’s the thing. I believe (and have for a long time) that the education system is designed to fail. Not underfunded, or poorly executed. It doesn’t fail by accident, it fails because it has to. The UK tries to encourage around 50% of young people to continue in further and higher education and that’s not necessarily a bad thing per se. But there is a more basic societal need. The need for shelf-stackers. Garbage collectors. Logistics drivers, warehouse workers, postmen and women. If we as society push young people to continue in education until they are degree-qualified, then surely some will be disappointed as not even the UK’s service-oriented economy can support that volume of graduate job-seeker.
How about the knock-on effect? Colleges and universities recognise they’ve peaked in terms of traditional graduate output – the market is flooded with candidates. So new courses emerge. Why? Because they’re encouraged to educate regardless of subject matter and potential outcome. Who picks up the bill? The student, the student’s family, the tax payer. All in the oft-forlorn hope that this newly educated graduate will contribute increased economic returns.
I don’t have the answers – but maybe we should start asking more of the right questions. For starters: Do we need 50% of our young people to be saddled with debt, high expectation and a degree of debatable value? Where did this target come from and is it in any way reflective of what employers need?
Please enjoy the comments section. I’ll admit this post is deliberately provocative, because I don’t think this issue receives sufficient debate. We in the recruitment industry see such a wide spread of client needs that we should WANT to influence the discussion.