With an unstable business environment and competitive job market individuals are finding it more difficult to acquire or maintain a way of life they have been accustomed to. Unfortunately this change is occurring faster than society would like to believe or can keep up with. The days of working for one company until retirement is one of rarity. Technological advancements, global competition, lack of leadership and foresight all play a part in the instability of the job market. Company mergers, acquisitions, reorganization, hostile takeovers, and just going out of business can happen regardless of tenure, or years of service. Individuals who lack a degree will find themselves at a disadvantage if ever unemployed or looking for a promotion. With a growing rate of unemployment, and need for skilled labor, employers are more selective in their choice of potential candidates and may overlook a qualified individual for one that possesses a degree. Although this practice may seem unjust or short sighted, it happens everyday. How an individual accepts this reality and positions themselves for future marketability is the focus of this argument.
According to The Principles of Economics by N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard University, Thomson South Western publishing 2004, many studies have documented that the earnings gap between workers with high skills and workers with low skills has increased over the past two decades. A man with a college degree can earn up to 89% more than one without, for woman the figure is about 70%. The incentive to stay in school is as great today as it has ever been. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s students could graduate from high school with a promising future and many joined the labor force without attending college. Unfortunately as the market changes and the need for skilled labor increases, many adult workers are now faced with a decision. More and more high school students are moving on to college and the labor pool is becoming more skilled and competitive. Although years of experience can be used to combat this reality, many employers do not grant an interview unless a degree is present. If an individual becomes unemployed or would like to be considered for a promotion the percentage of success is rapidly decreasing.
There are programs available for the working or unemployed adult. Many college institutions have recognized this phenomenon and have developed programs to meet the needs of adult students. Online courses, independent studies and contract learning programs such as the Empire State College Forum West Program offer flexibility in scheduling and guidance to obtain a degree in many fields of study. Financial assistance, grants, tuition reimbursement, and loans are also available to reduce uncertainties of the impact to the family budget. Time and commitment are also a factor in deciding to go back to school. These programs are specifically designed to assist in the transition back to higher learning. The courses are designed around the individuals schedule based on the pace in which to complete the degree. The fear of cognitive abilities subsides once the adult student begins a program. Many assumptions are based on prior experiences in high school and many do not take into consideration the maturity and life experiences that give them the commitment and drive to complete a degree. Furthermore, the feeling of accomplishment after every course completed is contagious.
Complacency is usually the root cause for lack of action. Behavior is contingent on the perception of risk and consequence. Based on this argument, today’s worker will face as many as three career changes in their working lives and the success or failure of future opportunities lies in the ability to enhance marketability. If the adult worker doesn’t consider the potential disadvantages of skill sets and degree credentials they may have difficulty maintaining their current way of living. It is the worker who understands that change is inevitable and competition, market instability and wages depend on their ability to recognize the gaps within their background. Then and only then can the individual gain competitive immunity and marketability for future endeavors and actually position themselves to increase their way of living.