Education for the Corporation?

In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled “Business Can Pay to Train Its Own Work Force,” Eric Johnson writes:

This is how employment is supposed to work. Companies hire broadly educated workers, invest in appropriate training, and reap the profits of a specialized work force.

Increasingly, however, employers have discovered a way to offload the nettlesome cost of worker training. The trick is to relabel it as education, then complain that your prospective employees aren’t getting the right kind.

This is, of course, one of the results of the corporatization of higher education, the assumption that education should be structured to provide a seamless transformation from school to work, the new hire arriving with all of the necessary skills for immediate productivity. As Johnson shows, this is a narrow and, ultimately, counterproductive vision for education.

There’s something else involved, however:

This blurring of the distinction between education and job-skill training isn’t simply a fight over academic priorities. It’s a fight about who pays the cost of doing business: the companies that profit, or some combination of workers and taxpayers. The more we’re willing to countenance a redefinition of job training as education, the more we ask society to shoulder what were once business expenses.

By shifting responsibility for worker preparation away from their own organizations, businesses are increasing their profits at the expense of the commons. This only adds to the wealth of the top few while draining the resources of the rest of us. Johnson ends with this:

Celebrating the intrinsic value of public higher education is not a nostalgic indulgence but a joyful duty. We spoke that language once; we should try it again.

Read the article. Johnson’s points need hearing.

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