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Degrees Of Qualification

By IAN FERGUSON

THE debate over whether businesses need to employ the highly qualified over the highly experienced has been going on for generations. Industry has for sometime sent very conflicting messages to young people, and some dialogue surrounding this issue must be had to set the record straight. Is it more beneficial to your career track to immediately go off to school, earn your degree and return to excel in the work environment; or do you find an entry level position and work your way up the corporate ladder? Certainly, we have seen prominent individuals in our society who have done both.

We tell our young people to go off to school and earn their degrees. We convince them that these degrees will make room for them and will open doors of opportunity. We further tell the tale that the degree and qualifications they earn will give them the right to demand the salary that they desire.

Sometimes we get carried away and we lay it on thick, while our gullible, impressionable youth eat it all up. So they return armed with the Diploma, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral degrees, only to be rudely awaken to the reality. You see, what is unfortunate is that while we have told them that the degree will cause them to be immediately recognised, in the same breath, we advertise positions (that are not even necessarily supervisory level) with the number one requirement being 10 years' of experience.

To add insult to injury, we promote those individuals who often have been in roles for longer periods of time, thus edging out individuals who have toiled for four - sometimes eight - years in colleges and universities, thinking they are being prepared for these grand opportunities.

Perhaps we have made this situation quite dire, and some contemplating going to further their education may be second guessing their decision. The Chamber Voice says with a clear and thunderous voice: EARN YOUR DEGREE!

We do not discredit the skills, competencies and abilities of others who perhaps have not, as yet, had the opportunity to pursue a tertiary education. We believe, though, that at this time in our country's economic development it is national corporate suicide to not promote tertiary level skills in the workplace, in both practice and policy.

When you enter a workplace with secondary education skills alone, you are left to rely on the tutelage of professionals who may be quite reluctant to pass on these skills. This transfer of skills, as many will agree, becomes quite limiting as the same ideas are circulated, and the old ideologies and businesses practices are reinforced.

The injection of higher-level learning and skills introduces to that environment a fresh look at what is possible ,and insight to what others the world over have done, and are, doing. Do you chance taking your brand new Mercedes Benz to the 20 year-old young man fresh out of trade school, who has studied computer engineering for Mercedes vehicles, or the bush mechanic down the road who started fixing old cars back in 1963 and has refused to re-engage himself in the process of learning?

Some persons, I am sure, as they read this article are saying to themselves, and perhaps to the audience around you, that many individuals who have earned degrees are highly incompetent and cannot perform sometimes even the simplest tasks assigned on the job. They have all this 'book learning' and are inept when it comes to performance.

We honour this statement as valid because we all know persons with advanced degrees who simply do not deliver any form of value to organisations. Unfortunately, some college and university degrees are generously awarded to persons who are incapable of meeting even basic standards of competencies in their respective fields of study. We agree that more scrutiny must be given in sourcing and recruitment practices to determining the skills that the individual, who purports to have the degree, actually has. Young people returning with additional qualifications, too, must change their mindset of entitlement. The degree may get you in the door, but the skills and positive attitude you demonstrate will keep you there. To that our corporate community says...AMEN

  • NB: About the author

Ian R. Ferguson has a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Miami. During the course of his nearly 20 years in education, talent management and human resources, he has served both the public and private sector. He currently serves as manager of the Chamber Institute.

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