Colleges Should be More Career Focused: Yay or Nay?

28 Jun

Anthony P. Carnevale, Director of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, has stepped forward and begun criticizing our nation’s colleges.  He maintains that colleges need to dramatically change the way they educate students–curriculums should be aligned with specific careers.

The colleges that most students attend “need to streamline their programs, so they emphasize employability,” said Carnevale.

The key psychological change that is needed, he said, is to move away from “the old model, where you go to college and then go out and find a job” to one in which the college years are explicitly “preparing for an occupation.”

Carnevale proposes these changes in light of a new study which finds that by 2018, there will 22 million new jobs for employees with college degrees, but there will be a shortage of 3-4.7 million workers who lack have some postsecondary degree or certificate.  To ensure the economic needs of the future are met, more money needs to be spent on higher education to ensure accessibility, and a stronger focus should be placed on careers to those entering college.

[Carnevale] said he wants high school students not only to realize the importance of going to college, but also to plan for a career at the time they make their college choices. “It matters a great deal that they go to college and get a credential, but what matters the most now is the occupation that they will pursue,” he said.

So, what do y’all think?  Would you have benefited from an educational system that forces you to choose a career as soon as you enter?  I would only feel boxed-in by these changes–I didn’t declare my major until the second to last day of my sophomore semester, and it was mostly because I was debating between 3-4 other possibilities.  As for careers, I have no clue what I want to do with my life!  My career ambitions have been as follows: doctor, lawyer, teacher, consultant, lawyer again, ANYTHING AT ALL, and now finally, anything in educational reform (which is a big anything).  How can people be made to decide the next however many decades of their life as a stupid 18 year old, when as a slightly less stupid 23 year old, this is a feat that flies way over my head?

Granted, these reforms would be directed at people for whom higher education may not be a reality, so perhaps my concerns are irrelevant.  But I can’t help but think that if money is being spent to send people to college, they should enjoy the freedom of choice and exploration, and not be funneled into rigidity from day one.

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3 Responses to “Colleges Should be More Career Focused: Yay or Nay?”

  1. Casey Mahoney June 28, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    This is an interesting idea. So much of education systems is based on tradition, habit, and reigning mentalities. Over the past year, I myself have had to speed up the biological need-to-find-a-job-or-grad-program clock, knowing that this “experimental” period is a lot tighter today than it was when I started college — reality is definitely more rigid than the outlook from the ivory tower.

    When I was in Russia, I saw that as early as 9th grade, kids were deciding on vocational tracks that led them to employment by graduation 2 years later (only 11 grades). Most of those that go on to college (at 16-17, usually), have to decide on 5-year vocational or subject-area tracks that are virtually unchangeable afterwards.

    Here in the U.S., it just seems to be “right” for us that our society gives us kids (or at least lib artists) this extra experimentation period, viz. Arendt’s “emerging adulthood” (look it up). I think it’s a trend for the better and doesn’t need to be reversed necessarily, since it’s (as far as we can tell) not psychologically damaging, and in the long run, not economically/financially harmful. Though, considerations in restructuring curriculums with the knowledge that grads are going into the job markets that they are would never hurt anyone.

  2. Sarah July 2, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    I agree, I think it’s right that we have this time to explore and “find ourselves.” I can see where advocates of this change are coming from though, especially as I’m discovering the whole sink or swim mentality of the real world. However, I wouldn’t want to give up that experimentation time, even if it meant walking away from a killer breaststroke.

    I think this extends into the notion that perhaps college kids of today are too coddled, and that’s why we struggle with the realities of adulthood post-graduation. We bitch and moan that the system should change for us, the nifty Millenial generation, when really, aren’t we just ill-equipped to handle the system? There’s no network of support systems to prevent us from failure, as there was in college. So when we do fail, as we all ultimately will, it shocks and cripples us, rendering once capable people into sad, reality tv watching greaseball couch-surfers (or maybe that’s just me). My point is, maybe the way to prepare us for reality isn’t to give us structure, but to take it away from us and let us create it. How many of us have thought about our futures and shuddered at the sheer open-ended possibility it contained? That shit is scary. Without structure, we’ll learn how to adjust–we’ll practice filling in those open spaces, and this adaptability should easily transfer to the job market.

    But then again, what do I know? I’m just a greaseball anxiously waiting for the return of Millionaire Matchmaker.

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  1. Tweets that mention Colleges Should be More Career Focused: Yay or Nay? « liberalart.us -- Topsy.com - June 28, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ryan Kellett, liberart.us. liberart.us said: Colleges should be more career focused: yay or nay? http://bit.ly/bWk6Vr. @selkhayat on what it means for liberal artists. […]

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