The results of a recent large-scale study of college students found that, on average college students spend more time during college working paid jobs than they spend going to class and studying (see one of many news reports about these findings here). Depending on the news outlet, reports of these findings are followed by either:
- These findings are further proof that cost of college is so high that students have to work most of the time just to afford it. Tuition is too damn high . . . blah blah blah . . .
- These findings are further proof that college’s academic requirements have gone horribly soft. Back in my day . . . blah blah blah . . .
For the sake of argument, let’s say that both points are true. I think there is a third point to be made that might be more important than all the rest. The narrative about college graduates that we keep hearing argues that colleges don’t teach enough of the skills required to succeed in the world of work (have a look at one such news story here). But if college students are spending more than half of their time working in paid jobs, then maybe the alleged skills gap (some folks make at least a partially reasonable argument that the whole claim is crap, like this opinion piece here) shouldn’t be laid at the feet of the colleges at all.
Maybe those who hire college students for all those paying jobs ought to shoulder some of the blame. Especially if the majority of working college students are employed in the retail, restaurant, or hospitality sectors (a reasonable supposition, I think), then those students are actually working for a much larger corporations that are certainly hiring many of those college graduates.
It seems that maybe the employers who blame colleges for a perceived skills gap ought to take a look in the collective mirror. And the pundits who use these findings to drive home a pre-determined agenda that college is supposed to produce young adults perfectly ready for everything that the world of work might throw at them . . . you might reconsider your premise.