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Internships: A replacement for a College degree?

I read an article today that piqued my interest.  Mostly because it relates to my own situation to some degree.

[article link is listed down below]

Now, I agree with this article in principle, but the article is a tad misleading.  Most likely because it written from the point of view of someone with a lot of Union-specific job experience.  In the short term, the lack of college education especially in technically challenging fields such as Information Technology, is more of a hindrance than a benefit, and an internship indeed provides a far more valuable real-world experience relevant to the actual workplace, but what happens when you reach the point where you wish to advance beyond that?  Of course none of this applies to professions where you cannot gain the required knowledge without a degree in physics, engineering or the like.   You can’t make a Doctor from an intern doing OJT for example.

 There will always be standout performers within society, such as those exceptional people listed in the article, but to assume that directly translates in something that will work just as well for the general populous is pure fantasy.

For people without the (far above normal) genius of Gates or Branson, college gives them valuable tools and the validation employers are looking for.  For people gifted with average levels of drive, skill aptitude or intelligence, the keys to success cannot possibly follow those same paths.  Those people are the exceptions within our society, not the rule.  Those people would have succeeded just as well if they had completed college as without, because their combination of intelligence, will and resourcefulness went far beyond the norm.

So how does this work for the average person?  Here are my thoughts on the subject:

Those in a position to hire still weigh college attendance in high regard, whether that is a legitimate assumption or not, that is the reality in the workplace; nearly every job notice demands a degree.  Those with a little more insight, will consider experience over schooling, but where can one get that except by working in the workplace?  That is where internships become more valuable.  As supplement to a college education internships are invaluable; internships bridge the gap between the theory learned in college and the reality learned in the workplace.  But the article supposes internships without college should be considered as a solitary alternative…  I disagree.

The only place this theory can possibly work is within the confines of a Union-driven workplace, where experience (and only union derived experience at that) is valued above all else.  But most of the world does not exist within the Union environment…

If your view of the benefits provided by an internship as a college replacement  is extremely shortsighted, then that can be true:  An internship will give you experience at very little risk to the business hosting it, and the intern gains valuable real-world knowledge that is more precisely applicable.

As your career matures however, you once again butt heads with generally accepted business practices, which is to require a college degree for any type of leadership position.

I’ve personally witnessed people who have worked their way into leadership positions from within one company, find themselves unable to find a similar job elsewhere solely for the lack of a degree to validate their Director-level leadership experience.

The fact remains that the vast majority of today’s businesses will (and do) continue to overlook both internships and experience alone without some kind of degree behind them.  Giving people the idea that everyone is a Gates or a Branson; while inspiring, is doing more damage than good.  As a general rule, getting that interview for a management job just doesn’t happen without it.

Do I like it?  Nope.  Do I think it’s right?  Nope.  Do I think people can become great leaders without it?  Absolutely!

But that’s not the world we live in.


Just my view from the cheap seats…

Referenced article:

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