Nick Wyman was a featured speaker at the 2016 IVETA Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA, USA.
If you weren't able to hear his presentation at the conference, here is a review of his book.
Wyman, N. (2015). Job U: How to find wealth and success by developing the skills companies actually need. New York: Crown Business, U.S. $15.00/$18.00 CAN (softcover), 276 pp. (ISBN 978-0-8041-4078-2)
Reviewed by Farid Safarmamad
Nicholas Wyman’s Job U: How to find wealth and success by developing the skills companies actually need (hereafter, Job U) discusses one of the major concerns both youths and adults have in today’s difficult economy – how to land decent employment. The author challenges the conventional perception that the best way to find a good job is by attaining a four-year college degree. In this book he offers “a new and different way of looking at the path to a fulfilling and successful work life” (p. 1) and “hopes to debunk” the college degree-focused mindset (p. 31) by providing “practical tools and inspiration” (p. 255).
Mr. Wyman, a former culinary apprentice and a graduate of Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government, is currently CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation. He is an expert in workforce development and “a hands-on leader” who designed and developed mentorship and apprenticeship programs to help people match their skills with the demands in the labor markets (Skillsresearch, para. 2). In particular, he is passionate about helping young people to make their school-to-work transition less challenging through partnership with schools, industries, educational institutions, and governments.
Job U was published at a time when the gap between the people’s skills and the labor market’s demands is continuously becoming wider. As a result, the number of unemployed and underemployed young people is increasing. The paradox, however, is that while millions of people are struggling to find jobs, companies are complaining about lack of skilled workers. This trend, the author says, will continue in the near future, because the baby boomers will soon retire.
Mr. Wyman argues that one of the major contributing factors to the current job-skills gap is the “college for everyone” mindset that misleads parents, school counselors, and educators. As a result, these groups see four-year college degrees as the only way to a successful future. Employers, too, subscribe to this traditional notion, and most of the time they believe that skilled workers can only come from four-year institutions. In addition, he states that the “college for everyone” notion leads to stigmatizing other viable options and pathways to successful employment, including vocational/career and technical education (CTE), apprenticeship, community colleges, and other occupational certificate programs.
The author then discusses the value and importance of these alternative pathways in the dedicated three chapters (3-5). In these chapters, Mr. Wyman convincingly disputes the myth about college education as a single path and provides extensive quantitative and qualitative evidence to support his advocacy for the above-mentioned alternative pathways.
Referencing to different studies, reports, and his own interviews with various stakeholders and beneficiaries and visits to CTE high schools, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs, the author claims that non-baccalaureate education provides a broader range of skills development and employment opportunities than baccalaureate. In addition, Mr. Wyman discusses the economic aspect of these alternative pathways saying that enrolling, for example, in a technical community college will result in students and families incurring less short-term financial burden and long-term loan debt.
The author asserts that not only is apprenticeship free of charge, but it also provides students with the opportunity to earn an income while learning a skill. At the same time, apprenticeships often represent a win-win situation by guaranteeing a future job for the students and skilled workers for the companies that organize such programs. Finally, Job U presents various successful models of skill development and partnership between educational institutions, employers, and government in Australia, U.K, and the U.S. The author advises both young people and adults to seek as much information and guidance as possible before career decision-making. To combat unemployment and skills mismatch, he recommends other employers and education providers to replicate the successful practices of partnership mentioned. Indeed, as Ashford (2014) states, “[t]he most successful organizations, as we move toward 2025, will be those that seek innovative partnerships across multiple stakeholders in order to source and develop the talent they need” (p. 109).
Job U is an informative book for all, but it has particular relevance for secondary students, parents, school administrators, career counsellors, educators, researchers, and employers The book is inspiring, based on quantitative and qualitative research, and written in a plain English that makes it easy to understand for readers from different backgrounds. In addition, the book provides numerous online resources that are especially helpful for high school graduates who are transitioning to labor market for the first time and older adults who might be thinking of changing career. Given that the book focuses on the experiences of countries with advanced economies and technology, it will be less helpful for students from developing countries. Job U, however, can be a helpful guide for CTE community worldwide to promote and develop similar vocational programs and partnership models by adapting the recommendations to their local needs. In sum, by writing this book Mr. Wyman has made a valuable contribution to the global effort of promoting and improving CTE image.
Farid Safarmamad (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a doctoral student in the Occupational and Technical Studies Program, Department of STEM and Professional Studies, Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA