A Comment on My WSJ Letter

George Leef

A reader just sent me this email. He asked that his name not be used.

I saw your letter in today's Wall Street Journal about the inflation of job qualifications, and based on street-level observation, I think your points are accurate. I first noticed such inflation in the 1980s, when I saw a job posting for a "facilities manager" at Wayne County Community College in Detroit.  The tasks listed merely involved taking reservations for various rooms and equipment and keeping track of who was using what.  This was something I thought a smart secretary with a good high school education could do, but astonishingly the college was requiring a bachelor's degree in social work! It would be interesting to see if the claims of increased income after a college education are matched in other countries.  In Germany, to be a sales representative, I understand you have to be ridiculously overqualified, and there's actually a special college degree for sales.  A German woman I know here in Detroit was greatly frustrated at her inability to attract MBA holders for jobs as wine sales reps, and I had to explain that the best salespeople often don't even have college degrees, and that people with MBAs have better things to do. However, when I taught high school for three years in the Czech Republic, I saw that far fewer students are admitted to college there, but they come out of high school ready to do the jobs that in the US require college.  When I now see 20-somethings and 30-somethings in Michigan studying hotel management or culinary arts in college, and performing at the same level as my Czech high school sophomores, I have a sad feeling that their education (or training) is being needlessly prolonged. In fact, many of my Czech high school students who were college bound, but didn't pass the university entrance exams the first time, were employed the following year as elementary school teachers, because a high school education was deemed sufficient for that work also.
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