Tertiary Education – Merits or Costly Exercise?
I read two brilliant pieces on tertiary education at New Geography this morning over breakfast and coffee. Titled “THE RIGHT STEPS TO A POST-COLLEGE JOB“ and “THE THREE LAWS OF FUTURE EMPLOYMENT;” the articles take a look a liberal art degrees (Bachelor of Arts in New Zealand) and future employment and who is most likely to do well ALL ROUND (money is not every thing as an example I will give later on).
I encourage reading the articles first before progressing on!
Effectively the articles look at the STEM Degrees (science, technology, engineering, and math) versus those you find in a Bachelor of Arts degree and goes through the tired old debate on which is worth more, who is needed more and we should be dropping Arts for STEM’s.
Well the two articles would say other wise and at the end of the day I would agree with the two articles (you read them yet?).
Why – because I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Auckland and found it to be very rewarding as a degree.
2006 I started my university life at the University of Auckland (after a two-year effective gap between high school and university) as a Bachelor of Science student planning to major out in Geography. However by 2009 when I finished undergraduate and graduated out in 2010 I switched over to Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Geography and Political Studies, with an effective Minor (had enough Stage Three papers) in Social Anthropology. 2010 I began my Masters of Planning Practice only to “suspend” (later “drop out”) those studies at the end of 2010 (was a two-year course and this May I should have graduated with a Masters Degree) and begin my work career proper after 10 rewarding years with McDonald’s earning the rank of Swing Manager before leaving.
So a Bachelor of Arts with a Double Major in Geography and Politics and some strong grounding in Social Anthropology – some people will think what was I thinking.
Quite clearly actually with the world going from boom to turmoil during my time at university and things becoming rather uncertain for some.
While under taking my tertiary education, I made sure I had kept my papers balanced in the following ways:
With my BA the Geography side was in Human Geography however; I took Physical Geography to Stage Two (which gave me the privilege of being taught by the best Climate Academic this country had to offer – Associate Professor Chris de Fretius) , GIS to Stage Two, and Environment Management to Stage Three. Stage Three Human Geography was also where “research methods” was also taught.
Political Studies I went two one primary path but had other strands going as well. The primary path was New Zealand Politics (instead of International Relations) with the other strands in: Public Policy, Liberal Theory and Political Marketing (the art of bull shitting convincingly). I must say while studying politics I was often the lone voice of the Centre-Right in class (National would come to power in 2008) but did recruit some over to the Centre-Right cause – so double yay for me !
Was recommended this as doing it as a filler at Stage One by a friend, but at the end I went all the way to complete Stage Three papers in Social Anthropology and dang that strand was the biggest eye opener to the World and thinking outside of the Western-Universalism realm. Social Anthropology was my “International Relations” strand on seeing cultures past and present interacting in an ever globalised world. Social anthropology gave me the tools to see the world in a wider view and see the Diaspora of all the people and cultures out there. You could say Social Anthropology could be a key weapon against racism and oppression in its tools that help one see a wider world in the modern age. Well worth the time taking Social Anthropology and a great recommendation from my friend.
I had several other papers under my belt by the time I finished my Bachelor of Arts, they included:
- Science General (communications)
Talk about a wide-array of subjects, to which all mashed together gave me my Bachelor of Arts and a very well-rounded education and skills set that was to complement my work skills at McDonald’s.
Masters of Planning Practice
To be honest – hated it and what was taught in all but two papers. Looking through the papers I saw all this will give me is a piece of paper to go work for Auckland Council signing resource consents so you can go build your second toilet. Either that or go contribute to the very problem we have in Planning in Auckland that has led to the housing affordability amongst other messes we have and need to be dealt to; simply put what the academics were teaching went against my ideals. Seeing nothing that could be “value-added” from the Masters degree, I would drop out and begin my new career (also having just been recently married in 2009) and self learning path. Now to be fair there was two papers I absolutely enjoyed (they were also the two papers I got an A- and A+ in as well) and enjoyed the academics who took them. They would be the Urban Design papers to which my work can be seen with Wynyard Quarter and Tamaki. Those two urban design papers taught me a lot of skills and knowledge that I use with my BA and work-skills bases to do things you see here in VOAKL – that being able to comment on Planning Issues in Auckland and present some credible and viable realistic AND/OR visionary ideas in making a better Auckland. My two urban design academics said my work while controversial was BOLD and OUTSIDE THE SQUARE in thinking to which Auckland needs. I also could hold myself in a hostile debate with former class mates who would follow the current planning grain Auckland is stuck with (to which that and my work on Wynyard and Tamaki would be used in Submissions to Auckland Council when the Draft Auckland Plan was up for consultation).
Ok my urban design work on Google Sketch Up is rudimentary, I am however not an architect. I present the base work for the idea while an architect would then work on the finer micro-detail, but with my base work as seen with Wynyard Quarter and Tamaki you can see visually what I am trying to get across in my ideas. Over time I will refine my Google Sketch Up and Draughtsperson Skills as I always love self learning new things but at the moment I think I can out do some often bad mock ups the professionals present to the public on some Auckland Council schemes .
At the end of all this what do I have, well for starters I am well equipped to handle these four situations:
- Globalization means that problems (climate change, human rights, etc.) that once were local become global.
- Governments, NGOs, and the United Nations, along with multinational corporations, will all take steps to address these pressing concerns.
- Students majoring in the liberal arts will increasingly find jobs managing global polity.
- Thus students who understand culture, politics, people, language, and science will be in demand.
As for the three laws and career I think I follow these pretty well – VOAKL and work are a testament to both. The quote below is a brilliant piece of advice as well so read and take it on board in nothing else:
The bottom line is that today’s young people need to develop an individually unique set of marketable skills for tomorrow’s job market. A marketable skill is more than an education (which is not a skill), and also more than just job training (a skill, but no larger expertise). The useful benchmark is it takes 10,000 hours to become expert in something
True expertise, by contrast, is something self-generated, following your own passion and talents. This isn’t to say education is always a waste of time, but it will no longer be sufficient to build a career.
So here is my career advice to today’s students:
- If you passionately like something and are good at it, then do that. STEM, for example, will always have a place for smart, hardworking people. Likewise, good writing can’t be computerized, but you need both talent and passion to be successful.
- Start work on the 10,000 hours. Your education may help, but very little you do in school contributes to the total. Be it car detailing, truck driving, computer programming, drawing, writing – acquire an expert skill in something. Write a novel.
- Empathize if you can. Computers can’t do that. Jobs that involve empathy (along with other skills) will always be in demand.
- If you got it, flaunt it. That’s something else computers can’t do. Beauty has value, especially for women but also for men. This is wonderfully described in Catherine Hakim’s book, Erotic Capital. Even if you don’t got it, take advantage of youth. Acquire a fashion sense, take care of yourself, look as good as you can.
If you are wondering where things have gotten me since I left high school (as a Year 13 Bursary Graduate) in 2003 here it is (not all attributed to University or Education)
- Two years in Australia giving me a break and maturity to deal with the next phase of life
- Attained the rank of Swing Manager at McDonald’s before joining the current company I worked for (so learnt customer service, management and operations skills)
- Gained a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Auckland with the papers studied giving a balanced foundational knowledge base for life ahead
- Masters of Planning Practice – a waste except for the two Urban Design Papers which were worth their weight in Platinum
- Now work for a company where nearly all the skills gained from the above come into play
- Own our first house as of New Years 2012 and will have the mortgage paid off much quicker than your standard 25 year table loan
- Lobbying capacity and building friendships, capital and networks with Auckland Council as I take on a calling to make Auckland a better place
- VOAKL – my voice to the world on Planning Issues that uses everything I have learnt or experienced from above
So where does the future lay for me? Only one person knows that and that is Him Himself (am a practising Christian) and providing I lead by example (none of this do as I say not as I do crap), follow Him and be of sound judgement one thing I do know is that the future can only get better and brighter for the time I am here.