• July 7th, 2020

Gen Z: Education vs Experience

We live in a generation that is transfixed by the here and the now. Quick fixes are increasingly becoming a way of life. The era of Generation X (Gen X), born between 1965 to 1976, created more thought leaders due to the longevity of one person in one particular job. Gen X was more likely to have one career path over their lifespan, due to the value of service, and by the time they retire, they would have amassed knowledge in a particular profession; they naturally became subject experts. 

This traditional path of service has seen a great fall in numbers in recent years. Manuel Grenacher, a serial tech entrepreneur from Switzerland, states “The younger generations aren’t looking for the same rewards or financial incentives from their jobs as older generations. Rather than wages and stability being the anchors that help retain them, they’re driven by purpose and flexibility”. 

What is interesting to note is Gen Y, also known as Millennials, who are born between 1977 to 1995. It is the most educated generation, while Gen X has masses without basic education. This is due to the lack of access to basic education in a time where colonisation and apartheid were rife. There was a trend where individuals amassed high technical skills and on-hand experience without educational qualifications. 
Countries like the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand have implemented recognition for prior learning, which allows people with on-hand experience to undergo evaluation of competence for accreditation. This has particularly targeted Gen X.

However, in today’s world, there seems to be a great disparity in educated individuals with work experience. Generation Z has taken to acquiring some degrees because the workforce now requires an average to above-average education.

 Annie Meuller, a content strategist at Prolica, sums it up this way: “A master’s degree gets you more money than a bachelor’s degree; a professional degree gets you more money than a master’s degree, but a doctoral degree, the highest point of educational attainment on the list, actually gets you less money than a professional degree. This is probably because most PhDs go into academia, research and teaching, where salaries are lower”. 

There seems to be a blurred line drawn between educational background and experience, such that Gen Z is unable to choose between furthering their educational aspirations or rather getting into the work market to acquire relevant experience in a field.

The risk one then takes in furthering their education to ensure they are desirable in the work market is pursuing a certification in a field they have no true on-hand understanding of, which can quickly end up being the wrong choice of study. The number of students who either drop out of university or finish a degree, only to have it collect dust on a shelf, has rapidly increased in Namibia. 

In addition, there are more job seekers than vacancies, and the unemployment rate continues to grow yearly. 
More on why Gen Y are in jobs that do not align with their chosen career or profession. I went on to study engineering and through the duration of the course enjoyed every aspect of engineering. It was not until I entered the job market that the realisation dawned on me that I did not enjoy studying engineering due to the content but rather the challenge. The worst-case scenario would have been for me to go on and pursue a master’s degree in engineering, only to then enter the job market and find that I have no true love for engineering. That would have been years of wasted time. Today, I am glad I studied engineering because it gave me an analytical skill I can use in any professional setting, but it was not after years of searching that I was able to truly understand where my true passion lies. 

Times are rapidly changing, with technology advancing exponentially. There seems to be a greater demand for educational background, which simultaneously requires work experience. The debate strives to ask relevant questions as to how to place oneself in a desirable position for an employer within an ever-changing job market. There is no single right answer as to whether to go the route of acquiring high levels of education or whether to work on first obtaining experience. What has proven to work is the slower educational path, which is both work and education. You will lose time potentially, but you will have a valuable combination. 

* By Mavis Braga Elias – Civil Engineer, speaker, philanthropist @mavisbraga

Staff Reporter
2020-02-26 07:55:15 | 4 months ago

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