May 21, 2014

not everyone needs a four-year degree? gasp!

I wish this message resonated louder and farther: you can have a perfectly excellent career without a four-year degree. Yes, you can:
Those who pursue short-term degrees in high-demand areas are being rewarded with living-wage jobs in our state. And they can reach those well-paying jobs faster and more efficiently (and often with less debt) than longer, less-focused educational paths…. It’s only now in the aftermath of a shifting economy that these critical mid-level occupations in manufacturing, healthcare, IT and other growth areas are gaining the exposure they’re due.
Cindy Zehnder, the blog post's author and current chair of Washington's Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board, points out that the Evergreen State is actively attempting to engage more students in the education that leads to "middle-skill jobs."
One way we’re forging these connections is through, which features details on nearly 6,300 Washington education programs along with performance report cards (when data is available) on how many students obtained well-paying jobs in the industry for which they trained. Another resource:, which ties together the 34 community and technical colleges and their full range of career-focused educational offerings.
It's been five years since I read Shop Class as Soul Craft's incisive critique of the academy's stifling focus on "knowledge work." Sadly, it's taken that long for the critique to reach the mainstream--and largely due to a lingering recession and crippling college debt. If the WTECB's efforts gain traction, and more students turn toward fulfilling careers in critical industries, maybe there's hope for us yet.

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