The School-To-Workforce Jump: A Dance With No Steps


under the sheepskin is the green back

Diploma not equivalent to good job

When I was growing up in a much-altered Victorian which stood a street over from the University then just beginning to occupy my neighborhood, I remember my dad stressing out over the seasonal basement flooding. He¬†bought a device out of a mail order catalogue. After setting it up, Dad explained that the excess water was supposed to “jump” from one level to another, draining it from the basement into the street above. The water never moved. My mom was not impressed. I began to investigate how siphons work. I figure my dad must have had a “gap” either in understanding or in application.

New grads have a similar “gap”in understanding and in application. ¬†Every year, schools spit out hundreds of young people who know the state bird of every state in the union, but are totally lacking in essential knowledge about how to navigate in the workplace generally and about their “dream”/ target job specifically. School thinks (hopes) that “any intelligent new grad” will “pick it up”. Yeah. Right. What really happens is the entire decade of the 20’s gets wasted stumbling through coffee shop barista, grocery store clerk, pizza delivery, and fast food restaurants. Many businesses take advantage of the “gap”, filling their low-paying jobs with new entrants to the workforce. Many do learn the essential lessons of the workplace through these entry level revolving door jobs, but many others do not. The ones who learn become successful in professional life. The ones who do not end up being terminated over and over again or getting trapped in low-wage jobs for years.

I clearly remember writing my first “dream job” in a space on my SAT test: architect…the perfect mating of my love for history, art and design. I thought that the “right people” would magically see that desire and help me get there.

Wrong answer!

With no guidance, I meandered on several professional paths until I “found myself” many, many years later. School today is still asking questions about its purpose in society. Is it to ensure a basically literate/numerate citizenry? Socialization? Prepare youth for their future jobs? Discover and groom future leaders? Keep certain people “in their place”? Definitions and answers change every generation. Can this generation find a better way to introduce new people to the workforce than the wasteful way we do it now?