When is “Draft Day” for Corporations?

All of my preceding writings have been leading up to this point: colleges grad-school-or-employmenttoday don’t do such a good job at meeting their mission. The emphasis for today’s and probably tomorrow’s student is to gather enough education and skills to land a good job.

Corporations spend tons of money educating their employees. When I worked at that large financial institution in NYC, we provided two types of training: 1) credit training over 6-12 weeks) and 2) continuing education, in the U.S. and overseas. The credit training cost the firm approximately $11,000 per person. The continuing education classes, which ran from ½ day to 10 days cost less but it was still pretty costly.

The point? Companies invest in their staff to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently. Since colleges are the “Minor Leagues” of Businesses, they want to be responsive to the needs of their Big League team. Now, if you don’t agree with me when I state that colleges are the “minor leagues” for corporations  – along the lines of the NFL and NBA drafting their new hires every spring to fill their rosters – In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, November 11th, 2013, titled: “Why Focusing Too Narrowly in College Could Backfire” written by Peter Cappelli of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. One of my former professors (a Scripture professor) gave us one word to always keep in mind when we were studying the Scriptures. That word was “Context.” He liked to say that if we employed the “pick and choose” method of learning and interpreting we were guilty of “grab bag theology!” Everything must be seen in its proper context. So, with those words of warning in mind, I’m going to urge you to read that article from The Wall Street Journal as I pick and choose certain parts of Professor Cappelli’s article.

No. 1: “The public and private sectors are urging kids to abandon the liberal arts and study fields where the job market is hot right now.” Well, my experience is limited but I have had conversations with people in the financial services industry who tell me that as far as certain parts of their firms, they still look for liberal arts majors or, at the least, not necessarily just business majors. The thinking is that they want young analysts who can think a little differently. Business majors are still king, but a firm benefits from having analysts who can, as the very first Apple ads used to say, “Think Different.” It’s a disservice to those of us with liberal arts degrees (Oops! My secret is out!) to assume that we can’t figure things out. Does every Psychology major plan on being a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist? I doubt it.

No. 2: “The trend toward specialized, vocational degrees is understandable, with an increasing number of companies grumbling that graduates aren’t coming out of school qualified to work.” My question is, “what makes a graduate ‘qualified’ to work?” Of course, Professor Cappelli, I assume – and yes, I know what happens when you assume – probably meant they don’t have the requisite skills. What skills for what type of job? Norah O’Donnell, talented and insightful co-host of the daily show, “CBS News This Morning” (co-hosted by Charlie Rose and Gail King) holds a degree in – are you ready for this? – Philosophy. Philosophy. By the WSJ article’s standards, Ms. O’Donnell is not qualified to work. At least not in her chosen field. Which I guess would be philosopher. Just what would a philosopher do, anyway? Set up shop in a cave and talk to groups of students? By the way, I have 24 credits in philosophy so corporate education is probably out for me. I have found that having a background in philosophy has given me the ability to think a little differently (or “different,” if you like Apple). I can see subtleties. I can think a little abstractly.

Doing well in business is more a combination of education, working hard, making contacts, having a plan (see my first blog), working at that plan and job strategy and not just coming out of college “qualified” to work. It used to be rare when a 21-year-old rookie quarterback came out of college and stepped right into a starting NFL role and did well. Used to be that they had to watch and learn before they were ready. By today’s standards – or at least certain factions of the college/corporate scene – college gets you ready to “hit the ground running.” It’s a lot more complicated than that.

More to come on this topic in my next blog.


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