What the pandemic has taught us about skilled labor and higher education degrees
Is our outlook on job security wrong?
Does a college degree still guarantee you financial security? This question has been floating in my mind for the best part of 2020. This question started to bother me once I realized “I’m almost in my mid-twenties(with the closest thing to having completed a degree being a piece of paper, which said I had finished the military diplomacy course) and need to pave a path for my life.”
Thanks to the pandemic, I have reflected on higher education and how it fits into my life. Throughout the various lockdowns the state of Israel has imposed, I have known, heard, or read countless stories of qualified and educated people losing their jobs. Now, most of them are looking for any income source that will support them and their families. They look for work in entry-level positions or blue-collar work (skilled labor). Honestly, this made me wonder if the idea that I had of what is supposed one’s path in life was not wholly correct.
I’m sure that throughout our lives, we’ve all heard the following phrases, “You need to go to college,” “Having a degree means financial security,” “If you want to be someone in life, you must go to college.” Now, almost a year into the worst health and economic crisis we have seen in our lifetime, are these phrases still correct? I believe the answer to that question, and the original question of this piece is “NO.”
In times that we’ve seen companies, businesses ( of all sizes) close due to lockdown and pandemic effects. We’ve seen people who had bachelor’s and master’s degrees go from having six-figure salaries to waiting at food banks and filing for unemployment and food stamps. I don’t believe that a degree assures you anything anymore. Take a plumber or an electrician here in Israel, for example; they charge an average of 200 nis( 60 USD) per hour, and their job has not been affected by the pandemic. To my understanding, after conversations with several of them, their businesses either stayed the same or went up due to people been home more.
So why does society push us so hard to get a degree, to go to university? Maybe it’s because a degree in the age of our parents and grandparents meant something. It meant that you would get an excellent stable paying job in some comfy office instead of having to work day in day out in the same pair of dirt and sweat-stained work jeans. So our parents, just like theirs. Believe that a degree would help their children live better lives since they would not have to break their backs doing physical work to support their family.
Yet, the same parents who told us college is the key to financial stability are the ones left out of the workforce because of the pandemic. I believe that, if anything, COVID-19 has allowed us to rethink what things we believe to be important in life, and a college degree is not one of them. What is essential is to do something that will, yes, give you enough money to feed your own, but will make you want to get out of bed even when you’ve been stuck at home for the best part of a year.
To sum it all up, Having a piece of paper stating that you are an expert in something, printed in an excellent selection of stationery from a fancy university, no longer means anything. In this day and age(especially with the whole pandemic), young men and women will need to find a different path to financial stability. I’ve yet to figure out what that path might be but be sure I will let you know the moment I find it.