(M)ost school systems are run by people who think that a four year degree in literature is a wonderful thing, and I do, too, but the country is kept running by people who know temperatures and pressures and torques and amps and volts and combustion characteristics and other things that don’t fit in the average sit-com. Yes, there are some colleges offering these things, but there are also a lot of people who picked up the skills on the job. — Mostly Cajun, Ch-ch-ch-changes!
I graduated from college with a degree in what I call “nuclear basket-weaving” – a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies, my three areas of concentration (in descending order): math, physics and engineering.
This gave me a good technical background but no actual practical knowledge other than how to do drafting, back when it was still done with paper and pencil. That did not make me all that employable. I started off as a helper in an electric shop at $5/hr, back when the minimum wage was $3.35. And remember, I had a four-year degree (after 5½ years of school)! The bottom quintile of pre-tax income in 1986 was $14,300 or less. I made less. I did not tell them (nor did I feel) that $5/hr was beneath my dignity. I said “Thank you, sir, you won’t regret this!”
That $5/hr job allowed me the opportunity to learn, and the stuff I know today I learned on the job. It’s made me very employable. I’ve been unemployed once over the last twenty-six years, and that was over Christmas of 2009. Currently, I get a call or an email from a headhunter about once or twice a month. That’s because I do know stuff about temperatures and pressures and torques and amps and volts and bits and bytes and words. Kids coming out of college these days? Not so much. And the majority of the ones who do? Foreign students who are likely to take that knowledge home with them.
My income now puts me on the ragged edge between the fourth and fifth quintiles. Add in my wife’s income, and we’re solidly in the (bottom of) the top 20% of income earners in the U.S. as households go.
All because I studied stuff that makes me valuable to the people who produce wealth.
As I’ve pointed out previously, Mike Rowe has a lot to say about this topic that’s worth listening to.