Mike Rowe of dirty Jobs fame has launched a campaigned aimed at higher education and the myth that it is the only path to success and financial security. Rowe argues that university education is over-valued and creating a generation of unskilled workers with large amounts of debt at a time when vocational occupations are struggling to find qualified workers. I agree with him. I spent the majority of my twenties in degree programs and have an embarrassing amount of both education and student loan debt. And no, I did not go to a fancy private school I couldn't afford, I attended state universities, worked while in school, received scholarships, grants and teaching fellowships and still ended up with debt which, as unsubsidized loans, compounded quarterly the entire time I was in school. Oh, hindsight.
That being said, I use my education and do not regret the time or work or even the expense. My particularly strange collection of degrees and certifications allows me to live a lifestyle of my choosing and gives me a broad range of possibilities for employment. But that is not the case for the average undergraduate with a simple two or four year degree in a non-trade program. And most university students these days take on far more debt than I have up front, even before the interest begins to compound. As universities rapidly expand and the shape of education evolves at the pace of technology rather than human development, traditional education provides less opportunity for the average student than ever before.
And trade work is incredibly valuable, lucrative, and offers opportunities for self employment, creative work, and non-traditional lifestyles that far better address the needs of the modern family. We need to re-value our carpenters, electricians, artists, foresters, and farmers and redefine education, what we teach and how we teach it.