Author Profile Picture

Emma Sue Prince

Unimenta

Director

Read more from Emma Sue Prince

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

This bubble has burst

default-16x9

Having a degree used to lead to guaranteed higher earnings and better prospects. The education bubble always meant security and insurance against the future. The knowledge, maturity and skills gained at university are thought to make a person more productive and provide the ingredients necessary for a successful career. According to PayPal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel, “a true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed. Education may be the only thing people still believe in, in the US. To question education is really dangerous. It’s like telling the world there is no Santa Claus”.

Times have changed. We now have a rising epidemic of “malemployment” – over 50% of graduates are working in jobs that do not require a degree because they’re unable to find work related to their chosen profession. This trend is growing and continuing years after graduating, making it even more challenging to find graduate-calibre work in a fiercely competitive market. Even worse, it is becoming clear that not only are the returns not good, the product itself is faulty. According to the authors of “Academically Adrift”,  45 percent of students make no gains in their critical reasoning and thinking skills, as well as writing ability, after two years of undergraduate studies. Despite the prospect of malemployment and unemployment after a degree, more and more young people aspire to going to university, even with its soaring costs. They want the perceived safety of the education bubble. Of course they know times are tough. Many of them work hard on enhancing their CVs with unusual achievements, volunteer work and things to make their CV stand out from all the other smart and motivated students. Many of them, like my super hard-working niece, Christel, seek out and juggle as much work experience as they can alongside their studies.

Lack of critical thinking skills and other key qualities might not be just down to how these skills are taught though: in his new book,Mastery”, American writer and strategist Robert Greene, says modern technology has encouraged us to make quick, rash judgements rather than develop lasting skills. He says the old-fashioned idea of apprenticeship will get us furthest. He cites the poet John Keats, who, having taught himself about poetry by reading the greats, set himself the huge task of writing a 4,000 line poem (that became Endymion) in seven months. Greene calls Keats’s method “resistance practice”, or taking the hardest option, to make you tougher than your competitors. He argues that each of us is hardwired to succeed and overcome, and that with discipline and a number of concrete steps, it’s definitely possible to live up to your potential and find fulfilling work that plays to your strengths.

So, what does all of this mean? To me it is simple: the only competitive advantage any of us has is maximising our inner resources, qualities and competences. We need to build (and (re)learn) what it means to be resilient, to have integrity and be proactive. We need to understand and use empathy to build strong and valuable relationships. We need to know ourselves and be in control of our lives and the directions they take. This is what needs to be taught to our young undergraduates today so that they are better equipped to face the world that awaits them on graduation.

The Advantage  – a new book focusing on how we find, build and develop our inner resources to cope better in our changing world will be published by Pearson Business in March 2013. 

Unimenta exists to help trainers and teachers develop these skills in their learners – membership is free. Visit www.unimenta.com

Author Profile Picture
Emma Sue Prince

Director

Read more from Emma Sue Prince
Newsletter

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

 

Thank you!