Credit where credit’s due.

A recently-retired friend of my wife applied to a local volunteer organisation to assist immigrants in learning English. She was informed that she would have to acquire an accreditation involving three hour sessions, two nights a week for eight weeks, two assignments and a three hour exam. This from a woman who spent a significant part of her career as a teacher helping students learn English as a second language.

A couple of years ago I established an agroforestry project for my brother and, so that I could better understand the practicalities of tissue culture and silviculture, sought out information on a general horticulture course at the local ‘hairdressing school’. The course was a complete waste of time and money, not providing anything like the information it promised. The course participants, most of whom were nursery employees or owners, knew much, much more about the subject than the presenter. But they were forced to become accredited to be able to advance their career.

It appears that business schools are suffering the same problems.

APPLICATIONS to business schools are down this year – at least in America, where management education was born and where business schools still award about 85% of the world’s business degrees. Kenneth Dunn, dean of Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, says that applications for the full-time MBA programme, one of the country’s best, are about 30% lower than this time last year.

And some of the problems stem from the dichotomy between the basic premise of the school as a ‘learning’ institution and the need to make money from the course.

The most commercially wounding criticisms are those that appear to contradict the claim that an MBA enhances career prospects. There was uproar when, two years ago, Mr Pfeffer and Christina Fong argued in Academy of Management Learning and Education that there was little evidence that getting an MBA had much effect on a graduate’s salary or career. “Usually it just makes you a couple of years older than non-MBA peers,” one source told them.

Of course, business schools may be important mainly as a screening mechanism – their basic skill may be choosing students, not teaching them. Once in, and the vast bill paid, few are ever thrown out for failing their exams even though, as Mr Pfeffer and Ms Fong mischievously point out, they are much more likely to cheat than students in other disciplines.

In “Managers Not MBAs”, a new book, he argues that conventional MBA courses offer “specialised training in the functions of business, not general educating in the practice of management”. Their students are often too young and inexperienced to learn skills that, in any case, are often easier to acquire in the workplace than sitting in a classroom. “Conventional MBA programmes train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences,” he complains. They ignore the extent to which management is a craft, requiring zest and intuition rather than merely an ability to analyse data and invent strategies.
Maybe that is why, as Mr Mintzberg gleefully points out, a list of America’s most-admired business leaders (Warren Buffett, Herb Kelleher, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, Jack Welch and Oprah Winfrey) contains not a single MBA.

In 2002 the Aspen Institute surveyed 2,000 MBA students and found that their values altered during the course. By the end, they cared less about customer needs and product quality and more about shareholder value.

Boredom has recently driven me back into the job market and I admit that not having the right credentials is making it difficult. At the top end of the market thirty-something HR consultants smile regretfully and tell me that much better qualified juniors have the post-grad accreditation, the MBA, the specific certificate or diploma. The fact that some one spends thirty years DOING and has trained dozens of subordinates, doesn’t seem to decrease the need for a Certificate 4 in Workplace Assessment.

If I apply for a job stacking shelves at Woolies (something I became very good at working for Safeway supermarkets in England) the manager, who is probably ten years younger than my son, says I’m overqualified, meaning I can’t take instructions from some one his age.

It seems that plans to improve retraining for oldies will fall flat unless there is less emphasis on having the correct accreditation and more on utilising the accumulation of life skills that only experience can provide.

As the ALA Submission to Inquiry on Ageing said;

Despite the clear reasons for older men to participate in a learning as a way of helping them through workplace, technological, or lifestyle change, many older men steadfastly refuse to take part in any form of structured learning. For example, in ACE personal enrichment courses, only 30% of enrolments are from men.

Studies conducted by the Australian National Training Authority in 2000, suggested that males aged 45 plus feature disproportionately in the ” been there/Done That”; “Done With It” attitudinal segments. Moreover the male 45+ group does not have significant representation in the other, more positive, attitudinal segments. (Source; National Marketing Strategy for Skills and Lifelong Learning, ANTA 2000).

When I retired I wanted to teach kids to swim. I reason that any number of swimming pool fences will have little influence on reducing the number of children that die, but ‘drown proofing’ infants might. The accreditation procedure required is enough to put the most ardent applicant off. And, even after passing an exhaustive police check, the rules about ‘touching while teaching’ children are ridiculous, so bad there are very, very few males who will go near kids now, certainly no male school teachers. This ‘feminisation’ of teaching and learning has had a severely deleterious affect on males re-entering the workforce.

Most ACFE providers in small towns are run, staffed and networked primarily by
women. Most have a rich history of women’s involvement through patronage, management and volunteerism. The program profiles are typically oriented to women’s needs. The learning environments are typically shaped in ways which
are overtly inclusive of women and which promote connection to community through learning”¦ As a consequence, men in small and remote towns are much less likely to become involved in ACFEB-funded adult learning.

It appears to me that if we are not to end up in a Paul Watson nightmare of Gen-X’s working their bums off to support an entire generation of early-retired males who are unwilling to retrain to re-enter the workforce, some accommodation must be made in the insistence on accreditation or credentialism; much more notice must be paid to the need for recognition of prior learning, even if that leaning was not rewarded by a piece of paper.

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Ron Mead
Ron Mead
2024 years ago

This craze for accreditation is reaching out to voluntary hobby activities as well. In NSW we have many bushwalking clubs that have programmed walks by members “taking their turn” to lead walks for other members. Litigation-driven to a large extent. Our club with 380 members has about 45 regular leaders. Once accreditation becomes compulsory you can forget about this type of club activity. I’ll bet it doesn’t just apply to bushwalking, either. This sort of co-operative sharing of the tasks in voluntary activities is very common, from organisations like U3A (University of the Third Age), Probus etc, etc. I’m not sure what qualifications you need to deliver Meals on Wheels (other than a driving licence), but one of these days you’ll probably have to attend a twelve-month course in elderly-person sociology and psychology,

2024 years ago

Training accreditation looks like doing for the workforce what QA (quality assurance) has done for the contracting industry, FA.

2024 years ago

As soon as the govt announced $700 vouchers to parents of children, who failed the YR3 Basic Skills Test, I knew what it meant. Ordinarily, this would buy a lot of one on one, after hours coaching, from skilled teaching professionals and the like. The wife, a JP teacher and one who gets amazing results(compared to her Whole Reading compatriots), dabbled with the thought of winding back full time teaching, to give these needy souls the benefit of her wisdom. I mentioned that apparently the vouchers could only be spent with ‘accredited’ trainers. Being a public JP teacher, she just laughed and forgot about it. This, from a lady who had just attended a trianing session with the SA Transport on ‘road safety’, as part of the SA Ed Dept, requirement that teachers have a certain amount of annual upskilling. She did appreciate the atypical dinner they chucked on for this one. She reckons this is about as close as she’ll get to the Corporate Boxes at Footy Park, that hubby occasionally gets, out of one of his suppliers, for a ‘training’ session.

2024 years ago

I’m looking for work in an area that has higher than average unemployment (Newcastle), and a lot of this rings true. Seems I get told by most people that I’m underqualified for the field of work I’m looking for – it’s simple office work, for crying out loud, I don’t need a bloody diploma to tell me that I can TYPE! – while everybody else tells me that I’m overqualified (I’ve got a BA and an MA). So it’s not an age thing (I’m 26 yrs. and counting.)

This unemployement thing is irritating, but I REFUSE to go back to TAFE or Uni or some other place to get a certificate to ‘improve my job prospects’.

Just as annoying are the Unequal Opportunity employers who I run into occasionally.

As a general rule, most employers seem to be so regulated and bureaucratised that they are unwilling or unable to hire anybody other than Mr. Bland Generic-Candidate, who fits a certain preconception they have in their minds. They simply can’t take risks or trust anybody who doesn’t fit this conception. Worst at this is the public service, by far, but many other employers are just as bad.

2024 years ago

Re Meals on Wheels; my mother worked as the local (paid) assessor/co-ordinator for 10 years until 18 months ago; the amount of bureaucratic crud about “standards” that slowly began to dominate her job, which initially was straightforward assessing clients and co-ordinating volunteers and the catering at the hospital (as per the job title), was amazing.

I would hate to think what happens when the volunteers start getting slapped with the results of yonder “outcomes initiatives” or whatever stupid name the Brazil-type nonsense goes by these days, though at the moment its just a case of writing a name down on a sheet for insurance purposes and the stipend that the volunteers also get at the end of the year to compensate for petrol and that.

You do wonder if it’s a front by the “there is no such thing as society” mob to de-volunteerise such services…

Anyway, I gave her my copy of Death Sentence to read, and she could well relate.

(* – Of course, I was roped in to help occasionally. It certainly opens your eyes, given that some clients live in pretty swanky houses whereas others live in Soweto-style flats. Often in the same run. I’d recommend it to anyone, actually.)

2024 years ago

My wife is constantly haranguing me about volunteering, e.g. meals on wheels, red cross etc. I refuse on two grounds. The first is that the paid employees of volunteer organisations generally treat their unpaid volunteers abominably; they seem to have the idea that if some-one is not paid , what they do is worthless.

And secondly, a paid person (preferably) or at least a work for the dole recipient should be given the job to reinforce the work ethic; volunteering does not instil the necessary rigour and discipline necessary to keep one contented being a wage slave for forty years.