04 January 2009

Competence First and Foremost

I contend that the most useful education currently is learning a trade. Welding, auto repair or electrician's certification will pay the bills through the rough times as people choose to repair instead of purchase. As times get better, some of those trade school credits may transfer to a college and you are on your way. What is that architecture degree, but about a year of drafting plus three tortuous years of art...the discovery of use of light and space...with a dash of engineering. One of the coolest people I know, was a blacksmith who got his doctorate in physical chemistry. You never know where your trade may take you. _SurvivalBlog
Here at Al Fin we emphasise building competence in children and adolescence in order to build confidence. Self-esteem that is based on actual competencies is a thousand times better than a faux self-esteem that is provided along with government school indoctrination. Such "self esteem" will crumble and fail at the first significant obstacle. Teach practical skills from the very earliest age, and never stop teaching and learning them.
For more than 20 years I have volunteered my time with unemployed US scientists, engineers, and computer professionals. Based upon my experiences, I suggest that young people 1) attempt to have a trade under their belt before they get a four year college degree; 2) preferably pick a college major that will allow one to work for oneself and not as a mere employee; 3) consider mixing two majors such as getting a teaching certificate and forensic accounting as this might give one two options for a career. If the student is not committed to college or unsure what to major in, consider attending a community college first as it is less expensive. Learning something either in college or via the trade pre-college that is hands-on work such as plumbing, construction, roofing, carpentry, welding, aquaculture (fish farming) , farm management, get commercial driver's license, learn to drive farm equipment, learn to repair things -- electronics, washers/dryers, etc. Some high schools have working relationships with community colleges where a high school student can take college courses while still in high school thus saving lots of money while living at home. Some schools will allow students to attend high school part time and learn a trade at the local community college at the same time.

...One should strive to have a college education that is debt free. No one knows what the future holds and graduating with an educational debt for a degree that may or may not provide a job (no longer a career) is a tremendous burden for a young person to enter the adult world with. When looking for a summer job or working during college -- try to pass on the burger flipping jobs and look for work in something where one can enhance a skill such a learning how to pump out septic systems, car parts shop, working on a dairy farm, landscaping, etc. I do think that having a college degree is valuable to one's personal understanding of the world but it is not necessarily essential these days to earn a living. I would urge young people, if possible, to complete a four year degree but not having one is not a sign of failure.

Finally, I also urge parents to help their children to learn basic life skills -- how to manage the home budget, cooking skills, gardening, car repairs; as well as learning to be happy and enjoy life. Learn to sing, dance, play some musical instrument, juggle, something to bring happiness to oneself and to others. _SurvivalBlog
Fortunate is the child who grows up on a farm, ranch, or in a family business. If the parents are smart they will teach the child marketable skills from the earliest age possible. Children who learn to be responsible for their own jobs while acquiring practical and marketable skills, are building confidence for later challenges.

At Al Fin, we consider it juvenile and pointless to criticise persons who took longer than four years to get a college degree. If a person can pay as he goes, based upon his own expertise and skills, taking five, six, seven or more years to get through college without debt is quite admirable. Most college degrees and $5 will get you an overpriced cup of boutique coffee. What a person can do is far more important than the number of letters after his name. Although Al Fin got his undergrad degree in three years, and two advanced degrees in three more, he is now a firm believer in the idea that practical skills should always be mixed with intellectual learning.

BTW, the amphibious vehicle pictured above was hand made from a milk tanker by someone with a lot of practical skills. Could you do something similar? I like the idea of modifying a cylindrical tank or tanker to make an amphibious or submersible vehicle. But I would want a suspension and some other capabilities incorporated into the vehicle pictured below:

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Blogger Loren said...

Problem with repair is that so much stuff is no longer designed to be repairable. I got a book for Christmas on repairing consumer electronics. While it talks about Cd and DVD players, it wasn't recent enough to include LCD and plasma TVs, but most of those don't have repairable electronics, not easily repairable anyway. Surface mount components and digitization has put them beyond the reach of most fixer-uppers. I'll probably have an adge eventually due to my EE, but that will only go so far.

In the meantime, there are thriving communities of trade and bartering, though nothing really big yet. I'm a furry, and if you look at the art host sites and forums and such, you'll find that we frequently trade art for art, or other things for art. I traded an old laptop for a couple hundred dollars worth of commissioned work a few months ago. I expect I'll be able to do the same soon, with my electronics and programming skills, mild as they may be. As things get worse, this trading will go to more than just a few fun pictures and to things that really make a difference.

Sunday, 04 January, 2009  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point. Nanosynthetic materials will be even more difficult to repair, except through modular replacement. Just something we have to work with if we want to use the tools.

Barter will become much more significant in the US as tax rates rise under the new administration. Organised forms of barter that have grown up in different communities should facilitate the process, as you say.

Monday, 05 January, 2009  
Blogger Bob said...

You might find this list interesting. The rank order of desirable jobs is almost the reverse of useful skill rankings.

Tuesday, 06 January, 2009  
Blogger Kirk said...

Regarding college and credit-card debt, I came across a video on the NYT website. It tells the tale of a 34 year-old guy who is $82,000 in debt. I'm blown-away that many college grads seem to think his debt level is understandable.

You'll have to click on "video" on the right of the screen when you get there. I couldn't get a direct link to work.

Broke, but can afford coffee?

Tuesday, 06 January, 2009  

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