Note: This is the first in a three-part series. Read the entire article here.
We’ve all heard stories about over-qualified university grads working at Starbucks and Home Depot for minimum wage. Today’s youth unemployment hovers at 13.4 per cent (nearly double the overall national level), along with student debts rising 44 percent from 1999 to 2012. With university tuitions having almost tripled during the last 20 years, and projected to rise another 13 per cent over four years, we’re beginning to wonder whether a bachelor’s degree is worth pursuing for our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews.
I used to think that universities did a poor job in equipping university graduates for today’s competitive job market. As a resume writer, I would sometimes look at a young person’s resume, observe the number of degrees and programs that the individual has taken, and wonder how it is that the person still can’t find decent work in her field, or a job with a promising career path.
We’ve all read stories about a “skills shortage” in Canada, and how the government needs to do a better job in promoting the skilled trades as an alternative to a university education. With resource extraction comprising a significant portion of our nation’s economy, particularly here in B.C., this seems to make sense. In early 2014, B.C. premier Christy Clark made a heavy push to try to encourage more people to enter skilled trades for jobs in the province’s natural resource sector and potential liquefied natural gas industry.
Then last month, I read Maximum Brainpower by cognitive psychologist Shlomo Breznitz, where he asserts that increasingly, more companies now require employees who can think across multiple disciplines and from different perspectives. He points to Toyota, where workers from marketing, sales, product development, engineering are put into a same room to work on the same problem. In praising “generalists”, Breznitz says that “ as the world gets more complex, fewer and fewer answers can be found within the walls of a single discipline. […] We have learned so much about every field that most new questions fall within the border of two or three disciplines.”
As much as the country needs mining technicians, oil field welders, and rig operators to work in the burgeoning oil and gas sector, what happens when commodity prices go down (as they are now)? What happens when demand dries up in a particular resource sector, forcing entire industries to close down? Yes, we need technical and mechanical workers; but we can’t forget that this economy isn’t driven solely by those who work in the trades. In addition, the social, economic and business problems we face today are so complex and so seemingly intractable, that they require community leaders, business people, entrepreneurs, and policy makers who can take a multidisciplinary approach in finding solutions. And this is where studies in the humanities and liberal arts come to play.
Milton Kiang, B.A., LL.B. is a professional resume writer with Channel Resume Services and helps jobs applicants create powerful resumes, enabling them to win job interviews in a competitive job market.