Despite a large increase in tertiary education numbers, New Zealand’s productivity growth is lower than that of most other OECD nations, and the earnings premium of New Zealand graduates is below the OECD average.
So why don’t New Zealand graduates earn more?
Not enough students are engaged in courses of study that are useful for productive work. Not enough students are taking maths and science at junior levels at high school, preventing them from going on to further study to qualify as technicians, technologists, engineers or scientists. As a result, not enough technicians, technologists, engineers or scientists are graduating.
In engineering – New Zealand’s greatest area of skill shortage – the rate of students achieving qualification is well below the OECD average. Not enough New Zealand students are taking the opportunity to study engineering at either university or polytechnic.
Having read the above extract (read details here), what are your thoughts?
I may interpret it incorrectly but I guess what the author wants to say is engineers, technologists and scientists are well paid jobs and so if the school leavers want to make a good living they shall study these subjects in the universities.
- Tertiary education too popular – bachelor degree holders are full on the street nowadays; the qualifications appear “cheap” and will be worthless in no time. In some countries such as China, to qualify for a receptionist role the applicants must be at least a bachelor degree holder (read details here), what the heck?
- Supply vs Demand – further to Point #1 that too many university graduates on the street, another reason why NZ graduates earn less is because supply outnumbers demand, especially in areas where semi- or fully automation are in place; some may say engineers or scientists should not be affected, I may say the replacement has been in place and progressing; high-ranked executives are still there, however the mid-ranked management has been shrinking as smaller number of these managers assisted by modern technology, can effectively reduce the work loads used to be shared between larger number of mid-ranked managers;
- Wrong idea conveyed – by studying these science/engineering/technology subjects at the universities the graduates will get chance for better pay. I do not quite agree, however, even though this is true it’s short-lived, why? The answer lies in both Point #1 and #2. Also when high-school leavers take the author’s advice and all rush to these bright-future subjects what will be the consequences? The top 1 is supply out-number even more demand and what do and can we do about the excess supply? And if this happens is it not a complete waste of time and resources???
- Incorrect solution to problems – the article suggests that government can do even better by “matching” the real demands to certain skill-sets, however we all know that things we learnt from tertiary education are far behind the pace of real life experience and modern technology; soon the graduates leave the universities they are already behind the real world;
- The real problem – tertiary education trains every graduates to be an employee. The only skill they learnt is to get a job, cling on job security, climb up corporate ladder and then retire and live happily ever after. With this employee mindset and skill-set, they can’t survive when they lost their jobs; and the only way they can go through these is to look for another job!
In my humble opinion the root cause to the problems (low productivity and low pay) are not the subjects graduates did in the universities, or mismatching of academic knowledge to the real world; rather it’s our education system especially the tertiary education, which trains student up to be a qualified employee – take orders from the boss, action and deliver results; and as you can see, “jobs” like these have already been replaced with automation system, and sooner or later the robots get all the jobs and get them done well.
If the governments and the corporate world really want to improve economy, national competitiveness and financial well-being of their own countries and people, the education systems needed to be reformed – teaching people how to be financially free and independent other than clinging on job security.