With the boy graduating soon, I’m thinking more about the state of our higher educational system. My son’s fiancée received a Liberal Arts BACHELOR’S degree from a local university. Not by mistake or default- it was RECOMMENDED. Of course, she’s a waitress now.

With the educational spotlights in out country on early education quality and higher education cost, it looks like higher education content may be slipping. Even with the political punditry piled on job preparedness in the ‘new economy’, little seems to translate to changes in out college’s guidance counseling or curricula. IT degrees with no practical programming? Early childhood education degrees with no teaching certificate? Pointlessness, institutionalized. If this country is serious about growing our economy, endless bickering, polling, special-interest recommendations, sociology studies, none of these can be tolerated anymore. Talking is not a ‘solution’. A solution is action. We (which includes college department heads) have been given all the information we need for decades. We (the general public), have gotten nothing for our money. It appears forcing incompetence out of our university’s administration can only be done through law.

What Law?

You want to prepare students for the job market. But, you must allow freedom of students to choose what to study. Science, math, and engineering may be what we need at the moment, but not everyone wants to wear a lab coat. And, predicting job market changes from decade to decade, not to mention legislating ‘curricula’ for these changes, is near impossible. What to do?

Mitigation.

Require all accredited collage bachelors degrees to include core courses & specialty degree courses (like we already do), AND…

one certificate in a unrelated vocational program.

These new vocation studies do not have to be tied to the university issuing the bachelors degree. Why? Because, most universities don’t have the facilities to handle a wide range of vocational training. I’m talking specifically about broadening, in both scope and  ’accreditory’ fashion, the range of what is considered certificate program. Construction trade journeyman, ASE Automotive repair, CompTIA Networking, machining trade journeyman, transcription, CDL hauling (with OTR experience); all these could see accredited ‘certificate’ status through a university. This also means a large quantity of entering students could potentially test-out of the vocation requirement. It may mean loosening of standards for vo-ed on the college level. However, counting a class in basketweaving as fulfillment, no.

Yes, this will create some significant accreditation problems. Official certificate program offerings must accept a wider range of vocations from external institutions. But, these will have to be monitored for proper content and market applicability. Yes, this means a separate accreditation body for certificate programs will need to be formed. And it can, and should, run a list of accepted vocations, and vocational programs, to keep up with market changes. Something that can be modified every 10 years, and all students can monitor.

I understand that nobody wants another layer of government bureaucracy to pay for. I also understand that no one wants to stay in school longer. But, we’ve reached an educational crossroads where our institutions can’t, or won’t, provide the services this country needs. And, our kids seem too stupid to know better. We need a workforce with the educational flexibility to adapt to market changes & failures, with the tools to survive. In a single step, we can double the skill set of a student, and eventually a population, in preparation for another downturn or great change in market. This means less reliance on unemployment insurance. This means a decrease need for government-sponsored retraining programs for displaced workers.

And, let’s face it- we all need a ‘backup plan’.