Two Cents on Higher Education

I ask every single interview candidate the same question: “What is your ideal job?”

This question yields a variety of answers, but there’s a common one that really bothers me. It goes something like this: “I eventually want to own my own business, but right now, I just need a stable income so that I can save up and go to school first.”

I have a real problem with the idea that a college education is necessary in order to become an entrepreneur.

Can higher education benefit your career? Of course. That’s what it’s supposed to do. I have a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and while I don’t use my degree the way I would if I were a practicing engineer, I rely on a lot skills that I learned in college: problem solving, resilience, and the ability to learn from mistakes, among others. I have no regrets about my choice to go to college.

The more expensive and time-consuming higher education becomes, however, the more stuck people feel on the road to their goals. I want to challenge the all-too-common narrative that the classroom is the best place to learn, or that college is a cure-all for every career setback you face.

When Kaser team members approach me wanting to know if a two- or four-year degree would help them advance in the field, I’m being very honest when I tell them no. If anything, I encourage them to consume content on social media – blogs, YouTube videos, articles – in order to enhance their knowledge and stay current with trends, but there’s nothing they could learn in a classroom that they can’t learn more efficiently in the booth.

As with most trades, our industry is best conquered through lived, hands-on experience. Until you’ve held the spray gun yourself and made all kinds of mistakes, you won’t have any idea how it’s done.

Obviously, there are some career tracks that require a formal education. But I contend that those tracks are fewer and far between than we’ve been led to believe, and when it comes to starting your own small business (whether in the powder coating industry or otherwise), it would be a shame to let the cost and time of college be an unnecessary and self-imposed barrier to achieving your goals.

If you’re treading water in a job you hate just so that you can save up money and go to college, I would advise you to reevaluate: does your ultimate goal really require a degree? Or could you learn the skills you need through a combination of internet research and hands-on training in the workplace?

Don’t misunderstand me: secondary education is a good thing, and if you have the time and money to invest in yourself that way, then you should. But if you imagine that a degree is standing in between you and your goals, I’m here to tell you that might not be the case.

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