Commenting on last week’s discussion about higher education and employment skills, a reader has sent me several enlightening paragraphs:
I think that one of the big pieces missing in the whole education debate is any discussion of the education that is provided by private businesses. We pretend that there isn’t enough of the right kinds of education out there while studiously ignoring the huge amount of on-the-job training that takes place in the U.S. economy, especially when minimum wages aren’t binding (there’s an economics literature on that) and when government leaves firms with enough money to provide it.
Private firms already provide everything from skill-specific credentials to college educations for their employees. Think Hamburger U. Heck, a former cook of my acquaintance has finally passed all of the major certifications to be a large food service facilities manager, one conference at a time, over some years, tests and all. He is now responsible for feeding something like 15,000 people.
On-the-job training works well for a lot of people who aren’t stupid, but who simply hate school.
A local Steinway piano technician I know loathed high school. He now has his own business, which does very well. He hated high school so much he wanted nothing to do with college. He thoroughly enjoyed Steinway school, though, and used that to develop further skills.
A local small company teaches people from all over the U.S. how to use a certain technique to detect flaws in particular structures. Employers pay for a week of eight-hour days that include labs, the teachers are Ph.D.s working in the field, and there is a certification test at the end, just as in a college course. Other companies do similar things, like routinely sending people to specialized courses at Wharton for various kinds of financial certification.