Education for Employment: Finding the T-Skills
The usual retort to this argument, but one is usually left unspoken, is that not all institutions are the same, and it is possible to build a hierarchical structure of institutions to serve different purposes. Indeed, the model draws upon California, despite its current broken state of affairs, and its system of Higher Education: However, this is the model practiced in most countries with a tiny-at-the-top system of education, with highly selective, high prestige institutions being helped out with more than proportionate resources to serve the most talented, who are somewhat pre-selected to lead the social advances and push the boundaries of knowledge.
This is as beautifully and logically conceived as the Soviet Five Year plans were, and seems to be having a similar consequence. Systems always assume a life of its own, and its rules diverge with social realities very rapidly. In fact, development and institutionalisation of this system not only causes a divergence from social requirement of skills - any system is self-preserving and therefore seeks to minimise the possibility of disruption and uncertainty - but also drives students to focus on skills and abilities different from those the employers may want. The system's own schema of T-skills is constructed upon a deep understanding of the system itself, and its breadth becomes basically about playing the system.
The essential divergence between the employers' requirements and the educators' agenda may be emerging from the persistence and ubiquity of the industrial era Post-compulsory education system, its value system, institutions and entire supply chain along with test provisions and ranking mechanisms. Without the meddling of this elaborate system of privileges and resource allocation, even with the reverse T, the educators' priorities are well poised to serve the society, by spawning entrepreneurialism, by creating knowledge and by enabling the convergence of interests in creating opportunities. Indeed, this is not to claim that everyone should have, or even, need the same education: But the answer to this diversity of requirements is not to create a stratified system of privileges based on pre-selection, but a flexible schema based on equality of opportunity but diversity of outcomes.
To visualise how this could work in practice, consider a technology-mediated Post-compulsory education schema, where everyone receives 10 or 12 years of compulsory schooling, providing literacy, numeracy and liberal arts and sciences foundation. After this, everyone goes to work, and an open system of two-year undergraduate education is constructed around practical exposure and experience (which will essentially construct the breadth of skills and abilities), alongside development of reasoned critique and reflection on practice. Completion of this education is achieved through additional one or two years spent in either a discipline-based studies, setting out pathways for research, knowledge creation and thought leadership; or a Professional route, studying technical skills and abilities. This exists today, in spirit, in many countries; in practice, however, this system is trumped by a ranked university system which operate within silos, promoting 'social life' above all else, and expecting employers to recruit on the basis of name-brand recognition. So, this call for T-skills is nothing but a call to deliver what education is designed to deliver, opportunity, by escaping the industrial era legacies of social engineering, stifled mobilities and irrelevant game-playing.