It’s unbelievable that thousands of people walk into our universities every year prepared to hand over what adds up to billions of dollars to receive training that’s supposed to help them land a job — but receive absolutely no guarantees that they’ll ever actually get one.
What other business would get away with that? A degree can cost as much as $40,000; imagine paying that much for a car, waiting four years for it to be delivered and then finding out you’ve only got a 50-50 chance that it will start?
That’s no exaggeration. The number of graduates who were actually in full-time employment four months after finishing their degrees fell to 72.9 per cent last year, from a high of 85.2 per cent in 2008. For some degrees, however, the rate is as low as 52.2 per cent.
That means that, at best, 30 per cent of people who finish a degree aren’t working in that field months later. And, at worst, it’s almost half of graduates.
And it’s not just which degree you choose, some entire institutions are achieving outcomes that low — the number of graduates from the University of Western Australia in full-time employment was just 55.4 per cent, according to the 2018 Graduate Outcomes Survey.
Let’s face it, the tertiary system is broken and we need to tear it down and start again.
Launching an investigation into where it has all gone so wrong would be a good start.
But, if we can’t do that, then surely the government should guarantee that if you don’t get a job in the discipline you’ve studied within 12 months of graduating you get your money back.
But they won’t, because many degrees, and business degrees in particular, are a waste of time.
They’re irrelevant to the real world, and relevancy is key. As any business owner will tell you, staying relevant in an ever-changing world is critical to long-term success.
There are almost no businesses alive today that are doing the same things they were doing a decade ago and, the few that are, they’re on their last legs.
But our universities are filled to overflowing with professors who are so far removed from the real-world workforce that they are incapable of teaching any usable, day-to-day skills that new employees need today.
If you study a trade, you come out the other side of your four-year apprenticeship with actual skills, knowing you can do the job you’ve been trained for. You’re ready to go, and while you’ll no doubt sharpen those skills as you get older, you can confidently do that job from day one. What’s more, you’re paid to learn it.
But when you go to university, you almost certainly won’t be able to do the job when you finish — especially if the degree is in business — and you’ll end up thousands of dollars
in debt before you’ve even found that first job.
University courses deliver the theory, and a degree at least proves that you’re committed enough to stick at something for four years or more, but it doesn’t deliver the tangible skills that working in any environment requires.
So my view is that a course should spend an equal amount of time addressing practical skills as it does the theory.
Finally, couldn’t all courses be condensed into half the time they take now, and thus cost half the money? Sure, that would mean no three-month breaks over Christmas, and you’d lose the three other holidays during the year, too.
But that’s not the real world. And isn’t that what we’re supposed to be preparing our children for?
Mark Bouris is chairman of the SME Association of Australia and Yellow Brick Road, and is one of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs. He writes a column for The Sunday Telegraph sharing his extensive business skills and answering questions about doing good business. Ask Mark at mentored.com.au.