Beware the glamourous sounding qualification


Growth Institute deals on a daily basis with graduates who are not able to find work despite impressive sounding qualifications. Some qualifications sound very glamorous but only return value after a person has reached a Master’s or Doctorate Level. In addition, some professions seem just as glamorous but the entry level requirements for those professions are often much higher than what the young graduate thought it to be.

We often hear how young people want to become psychologists, doctors, advocates, international trade experts, international finance experts, economists, judges, auditors, chartered accountants, etc. The youth are often shocked to hear that a first degree is not necessarily sufficient to practice in some of the professions listed.  This does not mean that the youth should be discouraged to qualify in these professions.  Instead, the youth must realise that students pursuing these types of careers have to study well into the night; sacrificing a significant portion of social time.

Anyone who wishes to pursue any “glamour” career should do more than just job shadowing for a few weeks or months. They need to find persons in those professions who can guide and mentor them and show them what are all involved in “glamour careers”. The fact is that some who eventually qualify in these professions become disillusioned and leave the chosen profession in the first five to ten years.

Some say that any education, relevant or not, is useful. They will quickly point to bankers who have a combination of an Engineering Degree and an MBA.  Or they could point to a celebrity CEO who has a music degree, an MBA and some Leadership qualification. Granted, there are cases where “irrelevant’ degrees opened doors. But, for the majority, that rule does not apply.

World-wide, economies report high unemployment levels under graduates. Many grapple with reasons why there are so many unemployed graduates, and some suggest that certain qualifications could be overrated or not in demand at all. There are some cases where qualifications are pushed for the sake of filling campuses. There are also cases where peer pressure or parental pressures force a young person into a qualification that he/she is ill-suited for or in which he/she has no interest.

Responsible career guidance cannot be disregarded. With career guidance, we mean that educators cannot assume that a person who excels in mathematics would necessarily become an expert actuary. Neither will a person that does very well in the debate team become a good advocate.

Millennials are driven by their interests and not the pigeon holes in which educators, parents or even psychometrists want them to occupy. Millennials want to turn their interests into income streams. What would be a good reason for a young person, who have a quarter of a million Rand’s sound equipment, do become a doctor because she is good in Biology?

Monetising interests or hobbies is not something that fits into the traditional frame of the guidance counsellor. It is inconceivable to us that the youth does not want a trade or profession to fall back on. Yet, the tide is turning towards multipreneurship. Since, there are not many jobs, people are forced to create their own work; using their talents and skills in ways that were inconceivable ten or twenty years ago.

This brings us back to the “glamorous but useless qualification” debate. Would a young graduate be able to use that learning as one of many facets of multipreneurship?

The fact is that not all professions require a degree at all. A Diploma in which all the student’s exams were assessed by an external and independent examining body could hold more weight than a degree who depended on an internal exam. In fact, some external examining bodies have a required pass mark of 60% compared to the required pass mark of 50% for the majority of degrees and diploma’s in South Africa.

There is also at least one professional body in South Africa that provides multiple levels of professional designations to students after they completed their first qualification, and have basic work experience of at least six months.

The combination of a 60% required pass mark and membership to a professional body that allows students to start their own practice, is therefore a combination that should be taken more seriously by recruiters.

For years, recruiters have been blinded by the belief that a degree is the only valid qualification into the job market. They are completely unaware of the fact that some of the young diplomats have a qualification where the minimum required pass mark supersedes the required pass mark of some the mainstream tertiary institutions.

Employers need to ask themselves who would be better qualified to do a certain job: the degreed person with an average of 50% or the person with a diploma on which the minimum pass mark is 60%? The answer seems obvious.

It is time that parents should ask whether a degree is really the passport to sustainable workeracy. Since there is a scarcity of jobs, the youth needs a qualification that is recognised by a professional body and that provides them with a mandate to start their own professional practice WITHOUT a degree.

Can the youth afford to be held ransom based on an outdated belief of “Degree or nothing”?

Peter van Nieuwenhuizen is the Chief Financial Officer at the Growth Institute, a college offering a range of professionally accredited Commercial, Tourism and Hotel Management programs.