It’s no secret that the entire world is still feeling the discomfort of the financial crisis that struck a few years ago. So many things have seemingly gone wrong and continue to go wrong in every country around the world. I like to think that just as how the planet goes through environmental changes every couple billion years or so, human beings have to undergo changes as well.
Some of those changes go by unnoticed until what we are used to and what is, show stark differences. (If you are weird like I am, you can observe the length of the second toe on older persons and compare them to the length of those of persons born 1988 and forward). Some changes are very obvious because they make us uncomfortable as they are happening. The current change in our way of thinking that has been forced on us by this crisis is one such situation.
We have to change the way we look at education for our futures.
When I was growing up, I thought that going all the way on the educational ladder would mean that a comfortable life would be waiting for me to step into it at the end of the day. Oh boy was I wrong! Growing up I had read about the Great Depression of the 1980s but everything I read glossed over the gravity of the situation and never in a million years, as a child, did I think that I something like that would happen again (even though I learned that history has a way of repeating itself).
Now I feel the need to be brutally honest with young people still in the school ranks. I don’t want them to be as naive as I was and then get a rude awakening. EDUCATION is NOT the ANSWER!
First of all, I am not discrediting the value of a good education. I do support persons who pursue it but this is how I see it:
- What’s the point in paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government/ a private entity for tertiary education when:
- You might just end up in debt.
- The odds of you remaining unemployed are unbelievably high.
- If you do get a job, it may not be what you are qualified for nor pay what you should be earning with a degree.
- At the end of the day, you have all this qualification on paper that cost you an arm and a leg and you cannot get a job that is worth anything.
Unemployment in Jamaica is at a dismal level and to be out of a job means that more than likely you will be like that for a very long time. The truth of the matter is that there are NO JOBS in Jamaica and our schoolers need to know this. The jobs that many of them want are being held on to “for dear life” by the older persons already in those positions and if the positions do open up, believe me, a replacement has already been decided on.
Of course, I must commend the Jamaican government for doing their part in seeking to secure employment for as many Jamaicans as possible. Some of these jobs are being provided locally and others are being provided internationally. This sounds like GREAT NEWS doesn’t it? Yes, but not for the group of people I am most concerned about.
Situation: See, the government is procuring jobs that require Masons, Carpenters, Welders, Housekeepers, Cooks, Waiters, Fruit Harvesters and the like.
Problem: A vast majority of the persons in tertiary institutions are not paying their ‘blood-sweat-and-tears’ money to learn how to be any of the above. With the exclusion of the doctors and lawyers in the making, a great deal of tertiary students are studying something in management, the arts, social sciences and (not so sure anymore) education.
Problem Made Worse:
- There is this ‘new school’ of entrepreneurship being preached left right and centre in Jamaica. Get this! Not everybody can be an entrepreneur! No! What if we all had the ability and mind for it? The market would be absorbed into competitors and other entrepreneurs. Who would you market and sell your goods and services to? The competitor?
- Jobs being advertised are not for graduates. Having spent all your twenty-little bit of years moving up through the school system and getting an education, you see the perfect job that you KNOW you can more than manage but guess what? The employers require 2, 3 or 5 years experience in a similar role!!! Where on earth do they expect you to get that experience when:
- You had spent all your life in school;
- No company wants to employ you so you can gain that experience!
Do these people think experience ‘sell a shop’ or you can pick it up at the roadside? No matter how you beg a company to employ you so you can get the experience and even go the extra mile of stating that they need not pay you, they always fork out the generic response: “Well that’s a very generous offer there [INSERT NAME HERE], but as I had said before we don’t have anything at the moment. We will be sure though to keep your resume on file for when something opens up!” DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A CALL BACK!
- This is probably the least nonsensical advice you’ll get from the already employed and content: Look for jobs outside of Jamaica. This isn’t too bad especially if the jobs are within CARICOM. If they are not, then you need the added trouble of getting yourself an up to date passport and a visa.
Solution: If at any point you want to live and make something that can come close to being called money then…
- Be prepared to work several jobs.
- ONLY get a tertiary education if you feel that it is an absolute must! At the end of the degree you may just feel like you could have gained all that knowledge with a good internet connection and for a lot less money.
- As cliché as it may sound: GET SKILLS! There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a bank manager but do not let that be the only thing you know how to do! The skills you choose to gain can complement your area of study or be a complete contrast; it’s up to you! I have two friends who are trained bartenders. One has a degree in Tourism Management and the other in Law. (Women will never stop doing their hair. Learn how to do it and make some residual income or save yourself money by no longer going to a hairdresser)
- Be ‘even up’, ‘nuff’, kiss ass! It may not sound like what you want to hear so let me phrase it differently; Network aggressively, network broadly and network all the time.
- Volunteer as much as you can. Volunteering to help the homeless and needy is great but that’s not the kind I’m talking. Volunteer in the field that you are passionate about and could see yourself working in. Make yourself an intern somewhere (this takes lots of ‘stick-to-it-ivness’).
- Believe it or not, you start making the future you from high school. Make wise choices from early, pay attention, ask questions, learn more. The better the foundation you have from early, the easier it seems to become. (for me to explain why I used the word ‘seems’ would be another blog post on practise and how it affects perception)
By no means are these the only solutions that are out there.
This is just my advice to those still in school. I do not foresee the financial and economic situation in Jamaica getting better for years and as such I am saying this for the benefit of somebody.
How I wish somebody had sat me down as a child and been this frank with me. The world was much too pretty of a place in my head.