I am not the most handy guy. Unlike my dad, who remodeled our house, changed his own timing belt, and even re-shingled our roof, I am from a generation where technology and markedly improved quality have made these types of skills much less necessary. And, when needed, our sharing-economy has made these services readily available for anyone who knows where to look.
I can't even describe what a timing belt does.
For this reason, I was a little miffed this past weekend when it became apparent that I would need to fix or replace our toilet, which constantly ran water from an apparent leak. I called around to plumbers for quotes, and while the quotes were reasonable, they were still more than I wanted to pay.
So I had an idea. Actually, my son had an idea. We decided to take our mission to YouTube.
With a quick search and a three minute video, we found exactly what we needed. A trip to Lowe's Home Improvement and a few hours of bonding time between the boys, and we had a like-new toilet.
Of course, I could not let this feat of plumbing mastery go untold, so I boasted to anyone who would listen. While retelling this tale of porcelain dominance, a student shot back with a realization I had not considered -- I had taken a job away from a qualified plumber.
I thought about it for a second, then I responded, "No, I did not. YouTube did."
This is the reality we live in today. Anyone with a decent internet connection and access to any number of educational websites, like YouTube, Skillshare or Udemy, can learn a skill in a matter of days.
So where does that leave us?
For as long as I can remember, and even today, there is an overwhelming sense that going to university was the key to a long term successful career. For certain, universities provide valuable skills, expertise and a network for some professions that require training, such as financial planners, doctors, and engineers, just to name a few.
But for many other professions, going to university for the sake of going to university may no longer carry the need it once did.
This especially reigns true when you consider the significant increase in the cost of college, which since 1997 has increased 157 percent and 194 percent at private US colleges for in-state and out-of-state respectively. Moreover, in-state tuition for public universities -- the institutions meant to serve the community at large -- has soared by 237 percent.
As the long term university return on investment shrinks, many are reconsidering the "need" for college. In fact, in a poll of 1,200 people taken by Fox Business, 47 percent of American believe earning a 4-year degree will not lead to a good job and higher lifetime earning versus 49 percent who believe it will. That gap was 13 points in favor of four-year degrees just four years ago.
I am not saying that university is a poor investment, but I am saying that area of study can be.
While there are clearly some majors that have the low returns on investment and should be carefully considered, students and career changers might just consider pursuing skills for jobs that exist today that did not exist ten years go -- or will exist ten years from now. These are the areas of education that we should focus on, and the ones that cannot readily be learned from a three minute long YouTube video.
Moreover, students -- and all business professionals -- need to learn through practice that the most important skills for business and life these days are risk taking, perseverance, flexibility, and responsibility -- all of which are difficult to gain through a university along.
Now it's time to get back to YouTube and learn what a timing belt does.
What do you think? Is university worth it? Share your valuable thoughts with others in the comments below.