It seems today, that higher education values prestige over practicality. Only a generation ago, kids who were performing poorly in academic settings were encouraged to leave school and find a job.
Believe it or not, this “harsh” policy had some benefits. In the eighties, early leavers were in the minority. The leavers had the lowest wages in business so employers were keen to take them on.
Of course, these jobs were fairly temporary. They usually lasted for a couple of years until they were old enough to warrant a wage increase, at which point they were usually “let go” in favour of new (and cheaper) blood.
The effect of this was that there was a constant flow of early leavers from school. These leavers would gain a couple of years of apprenticeship, or at least good quality “on the job” training and experience. This training was something they could take with them as they moved on.
The government also had some good cash incentives for employers to take on people with special needs.
Higher Education isn’t Always Better
These days there’s a school of thought that says that everyone needs to have a degree and often more than one. If nothing else, kids are at the very least, encouraged to complete their highschool education. This holds true even if they’re not receiving any real academic benefits from their extended stay at school.
As parents, we really need to question whether these are the right choices for our kids. Sure, leaving early closes a few doors. However, it does opens others.
Because of this overall mentality, employers will “cherry pick” the highschool leavers with the highest scores. After all, the wages are the same, so why not make sure that you get the best value for your money?
However, this cherry picking means that the less academically inclined young adults will miss out on job opportunities even if that academic knowledge is not a key requirement for the job.
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Trade Schools may be More Suitable
It’s not just a matter of securing low-income on the job experience. Sometimes the kids who are “better with their hands” will find that external specialist educational institutions such as technical colleges, trade schools and “night school” are much better suited to their individual needs that higher education such as college.
For example, a teenager who has a keen interest in cars but struggles with writing essays or doing arithmetic will find that a mechanic trade course will be a better use of their time than school subjects such as history, mathematics and art.
As a bonus, trade institutions usually work closely with workplaces and employment agencies to provide job-specific training and in many cases, placement.
Some schools will even work with external institutions to provide partial training, with the external subjects replacing parts of the school curriculum. This is a particularly good option if your teen has friends at school that they don’t want to leave – and as a bonus, it gives them a good chance to get their school leavers certificates.
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As a parent, you need to weigh all the higher education options for your young adults. Encourage them to make the choices which most closely align with their needs, interests and abilities. The emphasis should not be on just those educational options which bring the greatest “prestige”.