Earlier this week I read the article, “Young face ‘prolonged disruption’ as degrees no longer guarantee careers” by Adam Carey. The article draws heavily on a report by Monash University’s new Centre for Youth Policy and Education Practice which argues young people face the breakdown of a long-held assumption that higher education qualifications will lead to desirable and secure work.
The reality stemming from the report is that universities produce an increasing number of graduates who are forced to take on low-paid, insecure work. The article also refers to other findings from the report which include:
- Jobs for young people are increasingly concentrated in fields that are “seasonal, part-time, casual, low-wage and insecure”.
- Higher education participation rates have risen by 41 per cent in the past decade whilst, at the same time, the “earning premium” of a bachelor’s degree has shrunk, from 39 per cent in 2005 to 27 per cent by 2018.
The ‘old paradigm understanding’ that a university degree results in more secure work and better earning capacity has started breaking down. More importantly, the education that comes with a university degree is sometimes cited as outdated by the time one starts looking for work as a graduate. I remember speaking with a St Luke’s dad in 2019 who said that he realised when he was in fourth year of an architecture degree that his first year knowledge was already out of date, and that was 7 years previous to our discussion. What does that mean for those in first year architecture now?
The ‘old paradigm understanding’ that a university degree results in more secure work and better earning capacity has started breaking down.
According to New Work Order by Foundations for Young Australians, we are witnessing a large shift in the reality of future work, and it is unravelling before us right now. The New Work Order continues to highlight the increasing complexity of our working lives and the implications for young people across Australia. Further to this there are recent and current examples which confirm the requirements for work are constantly changing. For example, in 2014, Google changed their recruitment strategy and dropped the requirement for new recruits to come with a university degree. Why? Well,
- A person doesn’t need a degree to be talented.
- By definition, degrees represent a certificate of expertise, however a degree really doesn’t say what a graduate can do when it comes to problem solving, collaborating, presenting, creating.
- Due to the need to constantly learn, pivot and change, people need the disposition of persistence. Their thinking was/is that a degree can’t tell Google whether an applicant has a high work ethnic nor does it inform Google if the applicant is open to learning.
Google is often touted as a new age, edgy multi national company who changes old paradigms. However, long established companies are also challenging the long held value of a university degree. For example,
- People that I know who work for one of the ‘Big Four Banks’ highlight they are increasingly looking for people with the character and profile suitable to their company. Often, degrees are not a pre-requisite. The ‘Big Bank’ seeks adaptable, flexible and agile workers who are open to learning because “we can teach them the skills” is what one corporate employee told me. Another person close to the ‘Big Bank’ stated they are constantly investing in artificial intelligence and seeking people who can use the AI to create new products in response to customer needs.
- In 2019, the USA and Canada branches of world wide accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers stopped using degree qualifications as the only entry requirement for work. In fact, as early as April 2017, the Australian branch of PwC announced it would end the university degree employment requirement.
It is obvious that students are faced with a world of work where employers want a broader skill set, not just a graduate with a degree in a particular field. Furthermore, we know that there is more to life than work. At St Luke’s, as students strive for age and stage appropriate competence in the foundations of literacy and numeracy, we encourage students to develop a deeper understanding of themselves by engaging with our 6 Pillars of Learning. As they grow older, we challenge students to know more deeply who they are, what they can do and what problems they want to solve through our Life Design course in Years 7-10. As a result, each student develops an understanding of their strengths, interests and motivations (SIM). Furthermore, they develop a deeper understanding of their purpose by ‘road testing’ their SIM through passion projects and collaborative projects as they progress through the School of Leadership (5-8) and School of Entrepreneurship (9-12).
employers want a broader skill set, not just a graduate with a degree in a particular field.
At St Luke’s, we know that as children mature into adolescents they will need to be more and more open to the idea that they are going to change course, accumulate micro-credentials and, upon leaving school, continually learn throughout their adult life if they are to maintain work as part of a rapidly changing world.
As always, comments are welcome.