Training for a job not for a degree

25 June 2012

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For many students, and their parents, the only choice worth making when it comes to education is to go to university. But with developed countries seeing record levels of graduate unemployment and levels of student debt equivalent to several annual pay packets, alongside skills gaps that hold back economic recovery, is a degree really the best path for young people?

Last month, I attended the Industrial Crane & Hoist Conference (ICHC) in New Orleans. The event took place alongside a construction-focused event, Crane & Rigging Conference (CRC). A panel of speakers in one session discussed how a focus on academic education at the expense of vocational training is holding back the construction industry. I think many of the points made there are equally valid for all aspects of the lifting sector.

The first question is how to get young people into training for a career in overhead lifting (or any sort of vocational training). One thing that I have seen working well in countries like Germany and Italy is companies getting involved with their local technical colleges. By supporting college departments and providing internships, companies get to steer the best students towards their
industry, and to benefit from the sort of research that can help them develop their business in the long term.

It might not be that you offer training on the engineering or production side of your business; I've seen a couple of companies in Europe that have supported communications and marketing students in order to help develop their approach to building sales.

Even with opportunies for quality training established, many parents and students won't be shaken from their faith in a purely academic qualification. To do that, you need to keep the message about the opportunities occupational training provides out there in your local community. Running apprentice or intern awards schemes, maybe in partnership with other local businesses, and pitching stories about this to your local media outlets, is a good place to start. You should also consider how you can use social media, and posts about new entry level jobs and traineeships, to reach young people who may not read a paper or watch TV news.

Finally, you need to look at how you keep people from leaving the industry during a downturn. Experienced staff may stay in the sector even if they work elsewhere for a couple of years. For moderately-trained young people though, a few months without work will be a good reason to start a new career. How can you make sure your training investment isn't lost?