This is a controversial topic that has gotten varying responses based on the experiences of individuals across very diverse socioeconomic factors, social class, past experiences, and education level. If an individual has the ideology that they can make more money by investing in a skill rather than a degree, then they will pursue a skill. If they have been exposed to a family and society that has encouraged getting a degree to increase their marketability, then they will choose to pursue a degree and higher education.
In Jamaica, it is the societal norm for women to pursue degrees while men learn tricks of the trade. While that concept is becoming less popular, technical or vocational training is still deemed as rather inferior regardless of the potential opportunities it affords to earn a living. Why is it that the same energy exerted to get a degree cannot be used to hone a skill? Parents tell us that we have to get a good degree whether, in science, law, medicine, or technology but they shun the idea of graphic design, carpentry, technical drawing, plumbing, or any field have to do with manual labour or vocational studies.
However, it is becoming more and important to develop a skill even if a student decides to enroll in a degree programme on the premise that the world of work is a competitive one and you need all the advantage you can get. As an adult, we should be versed in areas outside academia since the ability to employ recent graduates in saturated areas of the world force is becoming more difficult. Coincidentally, there are many graduates without jobs and are at home sending out applications or trying to start a business out of desperation.
Contrary to popular belief, there are more institutions which are facilitating skilled professionals over time, and with the vast opportunities at their disposal, they may be on par with professionals with degrees. For example, HEART (The Human Employment and Resource Training Trust, National Training Agency) graduates have been honored as some of the leading world-class professionals globally which reiterates that it is important to possess a skill.
Life is more than being ‘book smart’. Get those A’s, the 4.0 GPA, study hard, get first class honors or a distinction, top your class, get that degree but make sure you invest in your personal development.
Also, being certified with a degree doesn’t make a person more or less qualified or important than one who is certified with a skill. Let’s move past this thinking and just strive to be better and evolved persons living daily in this world.
I am all about creating balance, to not choose one or the other, but to develop both and be as marketable as you can be in a world that makes you feel inadequate every day.
Ask yourself, where do you envision yourself 5 or 10 years from now? Are you working in corporate or working for yourself? Truth is, we don’t know what the future holds; we can just hope, pray and prepare for it. But, what is your Plan B in case Plan A falls through? Do you have something to fall back on?
By Alexandra Daley