College vs Experience

Tuition costs seem to rise yearly and very high student loan debt seems permanently set to challenge graduates’ ability to build a better life. In other cases, there are examples around the world of municipalities putting a greater emphasis on vocational training and trades schools. Given these developments some may ask is it better to get the experience or finish college?

Experience Reigns

We do things in this world. We build things, we provide services, and we use our minds to make decisions on a range of matters. Already knowing how to do something is faster and more efficient than learning how to do something. Already knowing how to think about something is faster and more efficient than trying to figure out something. People with these abilities can cause products to be developed faster and in greater quantities. Persons providing a service can do so with less difficulty and ease of effort while possibly serving greater numbers of people.

For these reasons and more, there tends to be an instinctive preference for experience before anything else. If you have experience of the right kind and quality, you can qualify for opportunities either requiring that experience or those that could benefit from it. Other factors in the human resource selection process may ultimately determine if that experience alone will be sufficient, but taken by itself, experience can be a certain way to remain involved in industry.

Experience Is Not Enough After All

Experience can get you a job, but it will not be enough to help you keep a job or advance in that job professionally. Experience can get you in the door, but you might remain just inside the door never to proceed any further down the hallway. History has shown that however far you proceed on experience alone, if that is the only factor of your success, it will usually translate into a limited advancement after a certain point. You need much more than experience to succeed.

Evidence Favors College

If you look at history, those who graduate college are more likely to succeed and work in a role that better relates to the intellectual achievement of the graduate. That role may have a better income associated with it that can allow you to live better in material and social terms. College shapes the intellectual substance of an individual in a way that is appreciated by organizations. The heightened caliber of knowledge, sensibility, and mental ability of the individual along with other factors allows the organization to put into service someone who can help the organization achieve more in several areas such as planning, strategy, administration, validation, and design.

Since the Great Recession of 2008, it has become increasingly known that employment for recent college graduates have been a bit tough, but it is not expected to last.

College Is Worth The Cost

It is true that student loan debt can be a challenge but even with a debt load, you stand a better chance of having a job, having good responsibilities on the job, and have a better income than you would without the education. With the right focus and life circumstances, you can get through college and come out the other side in a better position to succeed. All it takes is time, energy, money, and dedication. The rewards in terms of opportunities, living standards, and ability to think in a higher quality way should make the undertaking fully worthwhile.

We Should Always Use Our Hands

In the pursuit of higher education, the ability to make things (physical, artistic, or conceptual) should be held in high regard and not set as lower in value. The diminishing of trade, craft, and production does not have to emanate from a place fear or lack of desire to engage in or be affiliated with such things.

Between building and pure thought requires no competition, they are each entirely necessary as the liberty to engage in pure thought cannot exist properly without a quality built world and environment. Likewise, activities and endeavor of pure thought is a powerful contribution into the state-of-the-art and allows original craft to evolve into a much higher state. There is sufficient energy and enthusiasm in both realms including where they intersect to inform all of us to support each to their highest levels.

Extreme concentrations of individuals on just one side leads to stagnation and decay not redressed without great difficulty and unnecessary loss of time and opportunity. Each must encourage and inspire the other. Otherwise, the resulting implosion of the mechanisms that allow society to advance in the material spectrum will become less adequate to support the society.

Jobs And The Future

Not everyone has to go to college but those that are willing should try throughout their lives until they have succeeded in that aim. It will be a worthwhile accomplishment by itself. Some will finish college in 4 years, some will take 30 years before they do. Regardless, the benefits of completion will be intellectually and professionally valuable whether you carry out operations with your hands or influence them with your insights and administrative contribution.

More work will be automated by computers, computer network technology, and robotics. Further out from that will be a kind of smart, steady-state network of relays woven onto roads, sidewalks, walls (indoors and outdoors), and just about everywhere you can imagine. Some think this will spell the end of work as we have known it, but there is another way to look at it.

While it is true that some of what we call traditional industrial activity involving assembly lines will see fewer workers for the way those lines were design, that is not the end of it. There are both new industries and significant revisions to existing industries on the horizon that will require a huge number of trades people. There are two reasons why this will be the case.

People Are People – While automation does many great things, machines without people are not fully sufficient. People have to be involved, especially to fill in the gaps in terms of thousands and millions of unexpected situations and adaptations not preset in the machines. Also, while automation does lower costs in some areas, costs begin to emerge in other areas that some may find unacceptable. The total operation costs for machines may show that people, even with health care and benefits, are still more economical than pure automation.

People Balance Costs – Anyone who contemplates pure automation will realize that the provider of that automation or the constituent elements therein may hold too high a sway over the operations. The involvement of people creates a balance with automation that allows the organization to be more efficient in a way that offers an easier fall back in the event the automation proves too constraining or costly in other ways.

For those two basic social and psychological reasons, there will continue to be jobs at the trade level.

The Right Education

One thing is for certain, there will always be a need for engineers and scientists across numerous areas such as medicine, biology, chemistry, astronomy, materials and mechanics, as well as power, energy and computation among others. Scientists and engineers are constantly making discoveries and defining new things that improve our understanding of the world while improving our material conditions for living. Their timeless contribution is a chief input into the progress of civilization. That is to say, demand for individuals with this background should continue to be very high.

Beyond that though, specializing in any other way can be risky and it may be advisable to get a general liberal arts education and supplement that with vocational training in an area of near-term interest. That combination can give you the intellectual bearing that a college education can impart but equip you with the training and information needed to enter a trade that could become a career. While this approach may be risky in itself, the pairing of general liberal arts with vocational training provides an individual with greater flexibility as the economy changes over the decades and the needs of industry fluctuates in terms of which fields outside of core STEM are emphasized.

Experience Returns

Whichever route one takes, experience in one’s chosen profession or place of work will grow. All roads eventually lead to experience. It simply comes down to which road will you take. There is no shame to be had in any choice made. The preferences of an organization may mean that those who graduate college eventually become managers with a higher salary. Others without the requisite background in such cases may yet be firmly rooted in the operations of the organization and are likewise well rewarded for invaluable efforts they commit to the success of the enterprise. Whichever part you play, experience will grown and play a greater part in achieving more successful outcomes.


By Michael Gautier

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