……Is College Education inevitable for Career Readiness and Success?…..

In the days gone by, acquiring college or university degree was considered a much-coveted milestone in one’s career preparedness. However, the standards keep rising, and now the craze in the market is about getting at least to the Masters’ level. While for some people advanced learning has been out of genuine desire for personal growth, for others this has become unavoidable in their attempts to maintain their names on their organisations’ payroll.

The growth in the educational sector and development of institutions of higher learning attests to the growing demand for further education. However, the rising cost of tuition and high unemployment rates among graduates seems to dampen the spirit of those wondering whether to proceed with education or not. This notwithstanding, higher education has become one of the most important considerations for career advancement and job security in most organisations.

In the midst of this jostling for a sit in the lecture hall, the million-dollar question has all along been “is higher education the inevitable route to career readiness and success?”

Career Scenarios
To answer this question let us interrogate three scenarios that are typical in today’s job market. The first is the case of Jane, a successful middle-level manager with a multi-national company. She started as a junior officer, straight from university, after a certain godfather had helped her get the job.

Jane has steadily climbed the career ladder without much fuss and to her own amazement. Currently, she is studying for a master’s degree, to bolster her credentials, which include a few diplomas and several career-related short courses.

To Jane, career readiness and advancement demands college or university-level education. She admits too that competition in the workplace has been an important factor driving her quest for further education.

Against the Odds
Let us look at the case of Mark too, a successful entrepreneur who runs his private motor garage and auto spare parts shop. Despite his limited education, as he is a high school dropout, Mark has managed to accumulate wealth in the informal sector.

Mark is a motor vehicle mechanic, although he does not have any certification to prove it. Out of his deep love for cars, Mark learnt the skills through apprenticeship under his uncle’s tutelage. The uncle was a mechanic and garage owner too. Through hard work and patience under his uncle’s supervision, with time Mark perfected the necessary skills that now see him revered by his colleagues as the expert, and is thus one of the most sought-after mechanics in town.

To Mark, lack of college education did not stand in his way to career readiness. His many years of experience working in the garage exposed him to all the possible problems and solutions that motor vehicles can present. As he says, the expertise now flows in his veins, and does not need any certificates to prove anything to anyone.

Our final case is Tim, a young man who has gone full circle in his schooling. He started with a university degree. After remaining jobless for two years, he decided to boost his credentials with a diploma course. Returning to the job market, the tune by employers had changed from demand for specialisation, to his lack of experience. After remaining jobless for two more years, he took the advice from a friend to take a Masters course and try his luck at university lecturing. Mark is thus back to the university in quest for the higher degree that he believes will open him up to better opportunities, this time as an academician.

In the case of Jane above, it is hard to imagine what would have become of her had she never gotten someone to assist her get placement in a good company. Like Tim, the aspiring lecturer, Jane’s passion for higher education has been driven by external factors. She fears that unless she brings the employer more certificates, she could easily become irrelevant and lose her job. Tim appears lost in the maze of career life, and his latest drive for higher education is in response to a friend’s suggestion as opposed to sense of purpose about what he wants to achieve in life. Is it any wonder that so many people study whatever course comes their way as a strategy to widen their career scope and mask their indecisiveness in the matter?

On the other hand, Mark, the mechanic, is in a business that he likes and does out of passion. He is a living example of the saying that no gates can cage a willing soul, and that the world will always roll out a red carpet under the feet of those who are determined to achieve their dreams against all odds.

A Case for Passion
According to Laszlo Bock, Google’s senior vice president for people’s operation, 14 per cent of people working for Google have never gone to college. This is notwithstanding the fact that Google is a global leader in innovation and technology. He further reveals that most of the computer engineers at Google began as amateurs in their bedrooms, basements, and middle school computer labs. With many years of practise, the techies have developed such levels of expertise to the extent that like Mark – the mechanic – they do not need a piece of paper certification to show that they can do the job. They have already proven it in the programmes and applications they create every day.

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder had to quit university in his junior years to concentrate on his business pursuits. Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc. dropped out of Reed college after one semester to go chase his passion – computer engineering.

As more people run for higher professional certification, it is clear that the world beneath their feet is shifting fast too, this time in the opposite direction. The modern world seems to ask this simple question: “What is your passion, and how much are you determined to push through with it?”

If you can answer this question, you will realise that perhaps you already have more than the knowledge you ever needed to make your career dreams come true. As Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Google and many other people and organisations across the world have discovered, you can spin a multi-billion dollar industry by simply deciding to follow your passion.

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