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Training Yourself – Book Review


Training Yourself: The 21st Century Credential
by Charles D Hayes
Autodidactic Press
ISBN: 0-9621979-3-9

Charles Hayes’s book measures 9 cm by 12.5 cm and is 90 pages long, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in wisdom.

The key message of the book is that each of us needs to take responsibility for his or her own learning. For those involved in continuing professional development this is not a new message, but Hayes brings together the main reasons for it, highlighting changes taking place in the worlds of business, technology and education. Technological innovations come upon us faster than we can learn in the traditional settings of a college or university. By the time a course has been put together much of the material to be taught is out of date. If we consider this, together with the fact that companies want to employ people who can do the job rather than present a piece of paper saying that they have achieved a qualification, then we are faced with serious questions about the usefulness of educational establishments as they are currently constituted.

Hayes also talks about the trends towards temporary working and the increasing tendency for people to move between jobs. In the past an employer would be careful to take on someone on the basis of qualifications because this seemed to be the safer option. Now, since it is easier to part company with someone who is not up to the job, there is a greater tendency to employ people on the basis of what they appear capable of.

As individuals come to have more access to information first hand through books, the internet and other media, they are less willing to take the word of professional experts. Hayes cites the situation in the USA, which we are also seeing in the UK, where people turn up at doctors' surgeries with ideas about their conditions and possible diagnoses, which they have gleaned from various websites - much to the distress of the doctors! Expertise is of course valuable, but it is ceasing to become exclusive.

Hayes says that his book is about developing an autodidactic philosophy of life. As a successful autodidact himself, the author is well placed to question the holy grail of what he calls credentialism and, quoting sociologist Randall Collins, makes a convincing case for the decredentialing of society. Here are ten compelling reasons:

1. Rising costs of higher education.

2. Less public funding for education.

3. The temporary nature of knowledge.

4. The growing inability of educational institutions to offer assurance to business that a degree stands for knowledge of value.

5. Periodic high unemployment for recent graduates.

6. Periodic high unemployment for people with lots of work experience.

7. The increasingly temporary nature of jobs.

8. Increasing use of temporary employment agencies.

9. The virtually untapped educational delivery capabilities of telecommunications.

10. Global competition.

In a high-risk culture, says Hayes, competence (no matter how it is acquired) takes precedence over credentials.

Training Yourself: The 21st Century Credential, together with other publications by Charles Hayes, can be ordered from the author’s website at

Reviewed by Graham Guest.

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