Training for jobs we won’t get

Today, a year after graduating and with no intention of returning to academia, I found myself at . . . an academic conference! And no, it wasn’t the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, my old summer conference stomping grounds; instead, I was at Worldviews 2013: Global Trends in Media and Higher Education.

Tonight I’ve lots of ideas swirling around my brain, and am feeling thankful for having met a few of my Twitter contacts (and other interesting folk) IRL. As for the conference itself, one session in particular sticks with me: a panel discussion on journalism training programs. I was struck by similarities between the terrible job market for journalists qua journalists and the academic job market. We know that other fields also have pretty poor records when it comes to graduates getting good jobs.

Mostly, the panellists (Jeffrey DvorkinJanice NeilRob Steiner) didn’t delve into this issue, spending their time discussing their challenges and successes, and talking about what excites them about their work. The fourth panel member, Adrian Monck, questioned the ethics of providing training for a specific job given the dismal nature of the journalism job market. Toward the end of the session that crucial point made a comeback when three young(er) people in the room, all current or former journalists, raised their concerns. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time for discussion.

I’m fascinated by this because we PhDs know all about the disconnect between educational imperatives and the realities of the job market. It’s all fine and good to improve curricula, enhance the quality and relevance of instruction, and acknowledge the many wonderful skills students learn. But after the diplomas are handed out—after the tuition cheques have cleared—graduates need jobs. Sure, the vast majority will find employment: The vast majority of all Canadians (Americans, etc.) are employed. That’s not good enough, I don’t think.

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