By Rich Figel
TV shows depend on sponsors, so when I came up with the Career Changers concept, I wrote up a list of advertising prospects based on who I thought would benefit most from a down economy. Number one was colleges and vocational training schools.
Rising enrollment figures for colleges confirm what I anticipated. When the job market tightens, both young and older people realize they need further education to get ahead. But is a degree from a four-year program like UH any better than graduating from a job-oriented curriculum at Heald College, which takes just 18 months?
Full disclosure: Heald is one of our sponsors, as is Chaminade University -- another private school that is putting more emphasis on career-focused studies, such as forensics, interior design and a new nursing program. They were both quick to jump on the opportunity to be on our show. By contrast, not one single person from the UH marketing, advertising or public relations departments responded to my emails about publicizing what they have to offer.
I bring this up because it underscores a big difference between private and public colleges. Private schools react much faster to changing market conditions. If they don't succeed in placing graduates in jobs, they will fail as a business. UH doesn't really care if a student takes four or five years to graduate -- the longer they stay in school, the better as far as their bottom line goes. Whether graduates get jobs or not is immaterial to their mission.
Don't get me wrong. I went to a liberal arts college, and always believed that having a well-rounded education was important because it teaches you how to think. In hindsight though, the only real skills I acquired in four years at Montclair State in New Jersey, were things I picked up from studying journalism there. But it wasn't from classroom lectures. I learned by writing for the college newspaper and becoming a Montclarion editor.* In fact, I skipped many of my classes to make print deadlines.
You can't beat hands-on experience, and that's what private schools provide as a major part of their programs. I can only speak about Heald since I don't know much about Remington, Phoenix or the other colleges that run hundreds of commercials each day on TV. When I visited Heald the first time, I was a little stunned... the guys were wearing ties, and the women were dressed nicely or wearing dental and medical assistant uniforms. No hoochie mamas here!
Turned out they dress up every Wednesday as part of their "soft skills" training to prepare students for the business world. What's more, these students seemed to have a sense of purpose -- they weren't horsing around or slacking off. Maybe it's because many of them have already been out in the real world, and they come to class with a different attitude than I had, when college was primarily a chance to party hardy away from parental control.
The chief advantage UH and community colleges have over private schools is cost. But if you add up tuition for a four-year public university, then compare it to a program that gets you into a job in about two years time, the difference is made up pretty quickly since you'd be earning an income while the UH student is still taking classes for two more years.
There's a lot more Heald does to prepare their graduates for the job market, which you can find out about by tuning into the current Career Changers TV show airing all this month on OC16. For show times, just go to our website.
So any UH alumni out there who want to weigh in? Any Heald or Remington grads in the house?
*Footnote: M.J. Smith, a former Managing Editor of the Advertiser a few years ago was also a Montclarion editor. My first year as a Montclarion reporter, the Student Government president was Manny Menendez -- who also wound up in Hawaii, serving under Mayor Jeremy Harris as head of the Office of Economic Development. Small world, huh?