Not every High School graduate knows what course to take up in college. In most cases, choices will be based on recommendations of either family or friends. Unfortunately, getting a recommendation from the wrong person can be the biggest mistake one can ever make when it comes to college.
One of the best examples that comes to mind involves nursing. Several years ago, the demand by hospitals in many Western and Middle Eastern countries was so high, schools all over the world had trouble coping with the demand. In response to this, schools scrambled to offer nursing courses.
Swayed by the promise of high pay abroad, many parents were convinced that putting their kids through nursing school was the best way out of poverty. So, they toiled, scraped, and borrowed money to pay for tuition.
Fortunately for the first wave of graduates, they were able to cash in on the high demand. Quite a few went abroad, got citizenship, and were able to build prosperous lives for themselves there while supporting their families here.
Unfortunately for later graduates, the promise of a better life dried up. With so many schools here and abroad churning out students, supply quickly outstripped demand. And just like other industries before them, the world had an oversupply of nurses.
While I wish I could say this was the first time it happened, I cannot. Back in the early 1990s, the technology industry was booming and parents decided to put their children through technical school. Then the dot com bubble burst and nearly every technical person was out on the street.
Parents who had borrowed heavily just to provide their children with better futures saw their dreams crumble in a matter of months. And while it was bad for people who already had jobs, it was worse for fresh graduates because they did not have any relevant work experience to make them appealing to other sectors.
However, things were not a total loss. Kids who disliked technology courses could now transfer into careers they really wanted. However, the problem was that everyone was doing the same thing and other graduates had the appropriate courses.
We are again faced with the same scenario, with tons of students graduating from courses like nursing today.
I am horrified by the decision of parents to stop the schooling of other kids just so they can concentrate on that one child going through nursing school. They argue that after graduation, the rest of the kids can resume their education, with the help of the working nurse of course.
But now that the nursing bubble has burst, these same graduates, some of whom had passed the board exam, have nowhere to go. Faced with extremely low wages, they are in the same boat as every other graduate today, only their parents are deep in debt and their siblings are out of school because of a course that won’t pay for itself.
To make matters worse, I have heard of nursing graduates having to pay in the tens of thousands just so they can earn work experience. And just in case you are wondering what happens if the nurse offers to work for free just to get experience, well, he or she is supposedly turned away if they can’t pay.
[Imagine: Workers paying, instead of getting paid, for the privilege of working.]
The unfortunate result of many graduates is to end up in call centers. Nothing bad about that as call centers do pay well. However, this is not the objective in the first place. Besides that, many call center companies aren’t picky about courses so graduating with a less expensive, non-nursing degree would still have done the job.
[By avoiding nursing school, the other siblings who were forced to give way could have graduated too.]
Interestingly, when asked what course graduates would have taken if their parents not pressured them, many responded with non-nursing courses. Human Resources Management, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Accountancy, Mass Communications, Culinary courses, and even Law are among those mentioned. Some would have even preferred to be soldiers or in the religious sector.
At my age, I have seen the boom-bust cycle repeated over and over again in the different careers – programmers, teachers, agriculturists, and yes, even nurses. Not even doctors, lawyers, and accountants are immune because when the state of the economy changes, so does the demand for their services.
Pressuring children to take what is popular at the time only wastes valuable resources, such as money and time. It also increases the chances of students dropping out, especially when the skills of the student do not match what is required by the course.
Thankfully, the call center sector is capable of absorbing those who dropped out of college as well as those who don’t want to practice what they graduated with. However, this sector is not immune to cyclical changes either. Sooner or later, the boom it is enjoying will turn into a bust and this will mean that thousands will not only be out of work, they will not have the right skills required to transfer to other areas.
[If predictions are to be believed, the bust may be coming sooner than later because advances in artificial intelligence will render the call center agent obsolete.]
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is that parents should not pressure their children to pick courses that are popular at the time. The problem is that once their kids graduate, the popularity will have faded and their kids will be stuck with irrelevant courses.
The best approach may be to have children select the courses themselves. And if they do not know what they want at the time, then choosing a course suitable for their skills is the next best thing to do.