The Grumpy Giraffe

Critiques on social and education issues

Colleges are failing to prep students for jobs

BBC: Ofsted claims that colleges are providing only basic qualifications and a fancy name for students, but not actually providing practical skills to enter the job market successfully. In turn, students would need to seek further training to be competitive and competent job seekers.

This actually sounds like a typical argument proposed by many university students, so I’m not too surprised.

But what I am surprised about is that this is happening in England, which is home to some of the most prestigious schools on the planet.

First off, I need to clarify what “colleges” means in England.

In North America, colleges refer to schools that focus on practical, hands-on training in a certain trade, such as hairstyling, cuisine, carpentry, auto mechanics, certain types of technician careers (ex. installing furnaces, etc.), etc. Unfortunately, because they are more hands-on, they tend to have a worse reputation than universities, and are seen as “lower class”.

However, some things are better in colleges, such as cooking. No matter how much theory you do in fine cuisine, your cooking will not be fine if you do not try it out for yourself.

Canada does have certain colleges that are highly respected, such as the Ontario College of Arts and Design (OCAD), and what was previously known as Teacher’s College.  OCAD, however, is now a recognized university. Teacher’s College is now replaced by programs like Concurrent Education (the one I’m in now, where I’m doing a B.A. and B. Ed. at the same time) and Consecutive Education (do 1 year of Education courses and practicum after you finish your undergrad). Unfortunately, some traditional cultural communities (mainly the traditionally Chinese,from my experience) still do not value colleges as much as they are worth.

In England, colleges are like a pre-cursor to university that students take after secondary school. Colleges provide courses that help students hone in on the field they want to study in in university. Colleges last for 2 years, and these are the North American 11th and 12th grades.


So now that we have that clear, let’s delve into the actual meat of this post.

As we know, the ideal notion of a university is to enhance student learning. The goal is for the student to study a field he or she is passionate about and come to some revelation or epiphany in that field, like how Noam Chomsky developed structuralist linguistics with only his Master’s thesis.

I use “only” in the sense that something this big could have been a doctorate dissertation, but no. It is merely a Master’s thesis.

So when I read this article, I felt a great wave of disappointment wash over me, and then it left as quickly as it came over me because I realize that colleges in England are used as pre-cursors to university. Yes, I realize that learning is a lifelong path to some type of epiphany, either about the self or in academia, but we have to realize what the goal is for colleges.

Keep in mind that although the goal of English colleges is to provide qualifications for entering university, students may choose not to attend university after having completed college successfully.

So I swayed back to how this is quite unfair for college attendees to come out unprepared for work.

Although I feel this is sort of like how all university students must feel.Job markets are always evolving, and there are many jobs present today that were not present 20 years ago. Post-secondary institutions have a hard time catching up because courses and rounding up professors are hard work.

And to be honest, not many students go to university for the chance of academic epiphany. Most just want a degree to get a job so they can get out of there. What happened to passion of learning? We’ve arrived at this point in human history (of the developed nations) whereuniversity is just another hoop we jump through.

And now that many people have jumped through said hoop and have a Bachelor’s of Anything, more people are feeling the push to take on a Master’s, or even a Doctorate.

Of course, I’m not saying that students do not want to learn anything. Some students come to university solely to learn, and some want a degree for a job, and also want to learn. I’ve seen students who become livid at the fact that a professor decided to end class 10 minutes early, and the student feels ripped off.

But I digress.

Colleges in England provide work-related education and training for more than 220,000 unemployed people a year.

If that is the actual goal, Mr. Martin Doel, chief exec of the Association of Colleges, then I believe colleges really are failing their main function. It turns out that it isn’t about getting into university successfully, but rather work skills for the job market.

I understand that post-secondary institutions need to provide a good chance of studying closely the field that provides the spark to ignite the passion within you, and to be able to reach some higher Heideggerian synthesis, but if the major function of colleges is to provide work-related education and training, then they really need to step up their game.

Job markets are always changing. The jobs of today may not exist tomorrow. Tomorrow may be the harbinger of jobs that were not present today. Yes, it’s difficult to keep track, but colleges need to brush up on this kind of thing.

And not only English colleges. Some universities need to take a more practical approach in teaching the content and making it relevant. Relevancy of learning material isn’t a concept strictly limited to post-secondary teachers. This rule applies to elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, and onwards.

Lessons need to be current, relevant, engaging and accessible. Yes, you can still teach Shakespeare, but also explain why we’re learning Shakespeare hundreds of years we’ve died. Or rather, set up some activities to let students discover themselves the reason for studying Shakespeare.

I’m very fortunate that the university I attend to always uses current case studies or examples from the news to apply our knowledge. I’ve heard some other universities that focus so much on theory that students are lost as to applying it to real life.

By making the material relevant, understanding deepens, and students will know how to apply their skills in real life, whether in the work force or for self-improvement in a certain field.


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This entry was posted on July 14, 2012 by in education, school, society and tagged , , , , .


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