Pam Roy
Pam Roy

By Pam Roy

The Holy Grail for children in our society is college acceptance. From a very young age, we prepare our youth for the educational marathon that will define their lives. All too soon, youth learn that grades and test scores are the measurements of their worth. The mental and physical exhaustion of this marathon has exacted a heavy price. Our children are exhibiting epidemic levels of anxiety, depression and suicide. But we all must endure this price so they will have a chance at college, right?

What if college wasn’t the only pathway to a successful life? As a market researcher, parent and grad student, I have been on a quest to find out and the news is encouraging. Not everyone has to follow the same path. There are now pathways offering advanced training for well-paying jobs without the large debt or long-term commitment of a four-year college degree.

Technological advances have reshaped every aspect of our lives, especially the workplace. With this dizzying pace of change, colleges being the sole provider of higher education may not be capable of delivering all the skilled workers needed in this new economy. The disconnect is exemplified by 6 million unfilled jobs across many industries. Indeed, some job list websites compiled a list of the best jobs of 2017, which includes data scientist, digital project manager and Salesforce administrator. Many of the listed jobs do not require a four-year degree.

To fill the gap, lower cost, shorter-term training programs are rapidly emerging. These are offered in the form of certificates, credentials and even “mini” degrees and can be found through:

-College extension programs

-MOOCs (massive open online courses) such as Coursera, edX and Udacity

-Industry-specific online and blended training programs (WozU)

-CTE/Vocational Training

Coursera, edX and Udacity all started in 2012 with a shared mission to “democratize education.” As their popularity has grown, they are increasing partnering with businesses to offer affordable, fee-based training programs. For most of these, no previous experience is required.

Google just announced a new certificate program offered through Coursera that trains students for the 150,000 entry-level IT support positions that are open and unfilled. The program can be completed in eight to 12 months at a cost of $49 per month. Requiring only eight to 10 hours a week, it is an ideal fit for those who need to work.

In healthcare, CTE/vocational programs offer pay-as-you-go training opportunities. Modern Technology School in Fountain Valley offers an x-ray technician/medical assistant program that takes 11 months. It costs about $18,000, less than two years’ tuition at a state college. Graduates earn salaries of $40,000 to $52,000. Additional training offers higher earnings potential with the progression and timing left up to the individual.

Many companies have well-established internal training programs that enable advancement based on competency. Ernst & Young, IBM and others have announced that they no longer require degrees for applicants. Apprenticeship programs, which allow students to be paid as they learn, have been expanded and funded at the state and federal level. Additional pathways are opening in a multitude of fields to serve the immediate demand for workers.

For many youth, college will continue to be the chosen path as a valid transition into adulthood and for certain careers. However, alternative pathways can now be compared to the college option, which has been under increasing scrutiny because of its high costs, large debt burden and poor returns. Rarely mentioned in the discussion of college options are some harsh realities:

-It now sometimes takes six years to complete a four-year degree (only 37 percent will obtain a degree in four years), according to Complete College America.

-For every 100 youth entering college, 40 percent will drop out without a degree.

-Only half of those graduating will find a job requiring a degree.
What would life be like if we didn’t spend so much time and energy preparing our children for college? What would our family life be like? Most of all, what would our children be like? Join us on Monday, Feb. 12 at 6:45 p.m. at San Clemente High School, 700 Avenida Pico, in the Little Theater to learn more, ask questions and join the discussion.
This month, Susan Parmelee asked the Wellness and Prevention Center’s Teen Toolbox speaker for February, Pam Roy, to be the guest columnist and to introduce her topic to entice readers to join them for a discussion on the rapidly evolving workplace.

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