Education versus employability

Part of the New Guinea Commerce Winners Don’t Cheat Series.

By Sean Jacobs

As a former policy adviser to a senior state education minister I’ve been to many graduation ceremonies. These are obviously proud moments not just for students but for parents and friends. A qualification, as multiple university lecturers reminded me, is tremendously important in a competitive, globalising world.

Yet I’ve often thought about the education that doesn’t come in a classroom or that’s easily transposed onto paper. This is an education with a great deal to do with you as a person rather than your formal pedigree. Being book smart, for example, doesn’t always translate into street smarts. And education doesn’t always mean employability.

We now have a situation in Australia where many young people are going to university for the sake of simply getting a degree rather than looking at the job market and seeing where their skills or aptitude match up. ‘Half a million graduates (more than 20% of the total),’ according to the Australian researcher Peter Saunders, ‘are currently unemployed or doing jobs for which university qualifications are not required.’

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