Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What Does Your Future Look Like?

Our seniors, and to some extent our juniors, are carefully considering their options when they get out of high school. Certainly time is much more critical for our seniors, but if those of you that are in the 11th grade haven't started this process yet, I would encourage you to start giving your future some serious consideration. 

Regardless of the path you choose, in order for you to find success in life you are going to need some post-secondary training. For many of you this will mean a four year college degree. Others will pursue a two year degree, a special certification, or may even go into the military. No matter what, you will need to choose one of those options because the chances of graduating high school and landing a high paying job that will satisfy your quest for a lifetime of happiness is slim. However, to automatically assume that your dream job is going to require a four year college degree is also patently false. Unfortunately, we have not done a good job of properly articulating this point and as a result, many young people have gone on to earn Bachelor degrees they simply don't need. Compound that with the fact that some young adults then take a lower paying job with a large debt load, it becomes clear that we may have done a disservice to not only our youth, but to society as a whole. I'll get to that in a moment. 

When I went to college I majored in music. Many young people don't have a realistic grasp on the world, particularly when it comes to understanding what the job market is going to look like for them. As a young person I  was no different and tended to look at life through rose colored glasses. So as a 'performance major', I assumed that I would get my Bachelor Degree, move to the big city and become a recording artist. I actually said that. To people. With a straight face.

This is really no different than the young high school football player who thinks they are going to end up playing in the NFL. According to the NCAA, approximately $1.1 Million boys play high school football. Of that, only 6.5% end up playing at the collegiate level. And of that 6,5%? Only 1.6% are drafted by the NFL. Pretty long odds if you ask me, but we can all dream, right?

It was clear to everyone except me that I didn't have the chops to be the next Garth Brooks. But I was lucky to have adults in my life that cared enough about me and my future. They helped me to realize that I had a passion for education and that when I talked about the impact that my teachers had on me, it became clear that education was a much better and more realistic fit for my future. Truth be told, I believe now that had I moved to Nashville or Manhattan after college I might be living under a bridge right now!

So when choosing that path to the future whatever it might be, it is worth doing extensive research. Because even with what may have at one time have been considered the 'Gold Standard' of credentialing, the Bachelor Degree, you may not be on the path to prosperity that you think. Unfortunately there are a number of college graduates who are underemployed and working in what are known as 'gray collar jobs' (in other words their chosen career doesn't match their training or the debt load they now carry). I had plenty of friends in college who were living in their own version of fantasy land. I remember one guy who was majoring in philosophy. When asked what he was going to do with a philosophy major, he told me, "Well I am going to be a Philosopher of course". What does that pay again?

The point is that it really pays to do your homework before making some pretty substantial decisions that are going to impact your life in a very significant and long term way. That is where I would strongly encourage you to spend some time with Mrs. Baltz if you haven't already done so. Part of her job is steering you in the right direction with regard to possible careers and the training that you will need. Also, if you haven't checked out the video above, please do so. One of the most striking claims made in this post is that of the 60% of high school students who enroll in a four year institution, only one quarter actually graduate!

You should also take notice of what is described as the 1:2:7 ratio. For every position that requires a MA or PhD, there are two jobs for someone with a BA, and of those, each is backed by an additional seven jobs that require a one year certificate or a two year degree--and these jobs are considered high skilled and high pay jobs! What is more interesting is that while as a society we have been beating the drum of 'college for all', the statistics don't bear this out. This 1:2:7 ratio is the same today as it was in 1950 and as it is expected to be in 2030! A study by Harvard University suggests that in 2018, 33% of jobs will require a four year degree while 57% will be known as 'high skill jobs'. 

I mentioned above this not only impacts our youth, but society in general. Consider the decrease in the buying power of our economy if students are underemployed and burdened with debt. What if instead of becoming a homeowner, you become a student loan owner? 

How about the fact that many high skilled jobs in our own community are going unfilled? Many of these jobs, right here in Hudson are good paying jobs. Further, there is the false belief that in order to land that high paying job the only way to do so is to move away to a big city. While this may be true in many cases particularly when looking at averages, it doesn't tell the whole story. 

Think about that for a  minute. The average salary for someone in business management is $105,000 and the average salary for an electrician is $51,000. A business manager credential requires a Bachelor Degree while an electrician is a highly skilled job requiring a certificate and an apprenticeship. When examining the averages, it clearly suggests the person that is a business manager will make a lot more money. But what if the electrician is above average and the business manager is below average? Have you looked at the video above yet? If you  haven't I think it is time--you will be amazed at the results. Oh, and you need to consider the training that is required for both positions. If you are a below average person in business, you certainly aren't going to make that large salary--but you will have the cost and debt to pay for that credential.

You might be surprised to know that you probably don't have to look too far away from our own community to see some pretty lucrative opportunities. Have an interest in being an automotive technician? A position like this starts in the range of $17/hour, which equates to roughly $35,000 annually. On top of that you can expect to receive benefits. And the more certifications you get under your belt the more you can earn. In case you are wondering, those wages are comparable to a starting teacher. Since we already covered electricians in our example above, how about a plumber, HVAC technician, or a heavy equipment operator? These jobs also start in the range of $18-$25/hour with benefits. By mid career, if you are a hard worker that is good at your craft, it is not out of reach to earn between $60,000-$80,000 annually in any of these above mentioned vocations! Now to be fair, you aren't going to graduate from high school and roll up to Mr. Colwell or Mr. Petersen and get a job. You are going to need some additional training and a certification. But want to know another little secret about that? In some of these cases firms will pay for your training and apprenticeship--if you have the aptitude of course. 

Now, if you are convinced that you are going to be the next winner of American Idol, starting quarterback for the Vikings, or if you want to be a philosopher, then that is your choice. I will cheer for you and support you. But please, know exactly what you are signing up for.

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