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Fodder for Thought

News Flash: The Four-Year Degree Isn't What It Used To Be

Two agriculture degrees later I find myself still needing skills, knowledge and higher thinking.


If you are in the millennial generation like me, you likely have been told that to find success one must go to college.

You must "study hard" and get that four-year degree. Once completed, only a 9-to-5 job with healthcare, a 401k and retirement plan will do.

They won't tell you this is all bunk but if you listen to Mike Rowe's December 13 interview with Reason TV you will understand exactly. Rowe's interview focused on the high cost of college on both our children and society.

Rowe is worried that our current education system, one I believe is behind the times of our rapidly changing connection economy, is demonizing the blue-collar jobs. These jobs that pay well and are in dire need of manpower. Instead children are encouraged to get a degree.

"There's a real disconnect in the way that we educate vis-à-vis the opportunities available," says Rowe. "You have – right now – 3 million jobs that can't be filled."

Those 3 million jobs exist in the traditional trades jobs in fields such as welding, plumbing, and construction. Some of those jobs are also agricultural in nature.

In addition to this degradation of Blue Collar American culture, the current use of taxpayer-supported college loans (some of which allowed me the ability to attend college) are doing nothing but creating nearly $1 trillion in unnecessary debt or our country.

"If we are lending money that ostensibly we don't have to kids who have no hope of making it back in order to train them for jobs that clearly don't exist, I might suggest we've gone around the bend a little bit," says Rowe.

I wholeheartedly agree with Rowe's observations.

What our country's workforce needs and what society is telling the next generation of workers isn't jiving. This goes for the agriculture industry as well. A large portion of young people who desire to make agriculture their life's work has been told the same thing. "Go to college and get a degree if you want a good job."

The development of skills and practical business sense has fallen by the wayside and it worries me. Like Rowe, I have nothing against college.  Heck, I have two agricultural degrees myself.  Even after all that time spent in college with my nose in a book, I continue to find myself seeking out opportunities to build the actual skills and knowledge I will really need to be successful. Another thing that sets me apart from the rest of crowd is I actually did spend some time working a blue collar job as a truck driver before college. 

They say college teaches you how to think. I'm not so sure about that anymore.

I am sure college is not always the best option. For the sake of our industry and society we need to start telling our children that. We must end this ridiculous degradation of blue collar work.

There is opportunity to be had in this country and as Thomas Edison said it is "missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."

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