Brain drain: And the ones who leave are only the tip of the iceberg

by Steve Wyckoff on March 17, 2010

I’ve written many times about our obsession in K-12 schools with preparing every student to attend a four-year liberal arts college. The data are clear, we need less than 25% of all of our students to have a four year college degree. In fact only about 23% of all jobs require a four-year degree. In the workplace about 65% of all jobs require post secondary education, but not necessarily a four year degree. These high skill jobs are also high wage jobs.

One of the hidden unintended consequences of our attitude in K-12 schools is that we are preparing our very best kids to leave our communities, especially rural communities, and never returning. So in many cases our very best kids leave our communities, get a four year degree, often in the field with little or no job demand, and end up in a job that they would’ve never chosen given all the information. And these jobs are not in our rural communities where many of our kids would like to live.

So while our rural communities are engaged in a life-and-death struggle to maintain viability they are shooting themselves in the foot by having schools that aren’t focused on preparing each individual student for the future of their choice, which in many cases would be in that rural community  if the student had all the information.

It is imperative that our schools began immediately to help every individual student develop an individual plan for their future. But just having the plan isn’t enough if they’re only course choices are the traditional curriculum that only lead to one thing, leave home and go to a four-year college, and earn a degree.

With the advances in technology it is possible today to engage in many more careers than were possible in the past in rural communities. But our kids will only choose those career options if they are given the guidance necessary to develop individual future plans, and educational experience commensurate with that plan. –  Steve Wyckoff

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