A global disruption of traditional post-secondary education is underway. Many young people, questioning the assumptions of parents and teachers, are rethinking educational and career options. Why spend (and possibly borrow) large sums of money and commit at least four years of one’s life to obtain a degree that may not lead to fulfilling employment—or any employment at all?
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“A university degree is no longer the prestigious and distinguished accomplishment it once was,” said David Alexander, Dean of Students at International Career Institute. “Unless you are training to become a doctor, lawyer, or other highly specialized professional, a university is simply not necessary. There are too many university graduates and not enough degree-holders with the practical skills many companies seek.”
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International Career Institute has seen the landscape of tertiary education change over its 13 years (and counting) offering educational alternatives to students in more than 150 countries. In that time, while university student debt has risen to unmanageable levels and new degree recipients find steadily eroding job markets, over 6,000 students around the world have received training and certification—and jobs—in fields that include business, management, design, law, and finance.
David is not a lone voice marking the change in the perception of higher education. Global corporations including names like Google, Apple, and Hilton no longer seek college graduates for certain roles. Sir Richard Branson asserts that passion and drive far outweigh a university education, citing global entrepreneurial peers who, like him, don’t hold a degree: Daniel Ek, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg among others. Entrepreneur James Altucher, who built his businesses and his reputation upon the failure rather than the success of his university education, advocates for skills training rather than education, pointing out that the two are not synonyms.
Vocational training, a key to skills training, has been fraught with misconceptions that are now changing. A report by the Skilling Australia Foundation, for example, busts key myths surrounding vocational education. Graduates of vocational programs, for examples, reported a higher median annual salary ($56,000) than bachelor’s degree recipients ($54,000) with a similar gap in starting salaries. In addition, vocational graduates had higher out-of-school employment numbers, with 78 percent finding jobs compared to 69 percent of college graduates. The benefits of vocational training hold in other countries as well, as companies like International Creative Institute can attest.
“Degrees are more oriented toward academic theories than practical applications, and they ultimately leave graduates in considerable debt without assurance of employment,” said David. “We believe that students are better served by mastering practical skills they can immediately apply, a qualification that certifies proficiency in those skills, no student debt, and job search support upon graduation.”
Online educational organizations like International Career Institute offer several key advantages. The virtual learning model allows great schedule flexibility, allowing students to fit their education into their lives instead of the other way around. A financial model with costs significantly lower than universities and affordable financing options make useful education within reach and with a manageable debt load. With close connections to key business and industry sectors, students can undertake internships and apprenticeships under the organization’s aegis, which supplements the skills portfolio acquired in their coursework.
“Skills training make so much sense for many people who have completed their secondary education or who want to reskill for better employment opportunities,” said David. “It is heartening to see perceptions and attitudes about higher education changing, and I expect to see great benefits for students as well as industry and business sectors from this change.”