Apparently officials at the Ministry of Education think that this is a good idea and a valuable use of their time. I disagree with them. Indeed I think that they’re nuts.
“Health” is the big winner in terms of median salaries earned five years after graduating, according to the Dominion Post. This is where the nonsense starts. This category will include doctors and surgeons, together with nurses, paramedics and, presumably nonsense health professions, like naturopathy. That is a very diverse range of occupations and earning potential within a category.
It will be the high income earners – the doctors and surgeons – who are inflating this category compared to others on the list. These will also be the folk to whom the focus of school leavers will be directed by their career “advisers”.
Bear with me while I do a reductio ad absurdum. The nation’s career advisers are spectacularly successful and all of the nation’s secondary school leavers decide to become health professionals and rock off to medical school.
First problem: they won’t all fit into our medical schools. New Zealand is already arguably over-graduating doctors, many of whom leave the country to avoid repaying their significant taxpayer-funded student debt.
Second problem: the academic competency bar for medicine is set pretty high – considerably higher than media studies, for example. Perhaps if Year 13 students work really hard, they could get their average performance over 50%.
Third problem: if every university student graduates as a health professional, how are the country's other professions going to be filled?
I think it’s tragic that a focus is on the earning potential of graduates. Whatever happened to students being encouraged to consider academic training in things they really enjoyed, perhaps were passionate about, and in which they stood a good chance of excelling?
A lot of people, myself included, gain a degree in a particular area of interest and then end up pursuing a completely different career. To explain, my degree is in agricultural science, my chosen profession is in communication. In all of the years I was in a position to hire communication staff, I never hired one with a communication degree. Call me strange but I always went for the applicant I thought was best suited to the role on offer.
I also think that it’s tragic that this nation’s tradespeople, service workers and general backbone of the economy don’t seem to be ranked as a priority by the Ministry of Education. Maybe that’s why our dairy industry has to import qualified and capable farm workers from the Philippines. I suppose that that is also a reality of so many school leavers having above average abilities. It could also be due to the fact that people on the unemployment benefit like to live in big cities, rather than in places like Stratford or Otautau.
I guess we’re lucky that fashion models didn’t come out in the top spot on the Ministry’s list. If they had, then this sage observation from Derek Zoolander would come into play, when he summarised his career: “Well I guess it all started the first time I went through the second grade. I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking ‘wow, you’re ridiculously good looking, maybe you could do that for a career.’”