Education vs Training
I did a newspaper interview on Friday. I actually still get a kick out of working with the media. There are some interesting questions being asked. The radio is the most fun as they give you a relatively uninterrupted block of time. Newspapers and TV have their own perks too. The interview was mostly about the decline in job quality in Atlantic Canada as measured by CIBC world markets research. An interest fact that ties into some of the other things I’ve said here.
On of the things that came up was the issue of training versus education. New Brunswick is in the middle of a review of post secondary education. This, of course, makes everybody in the post secondary game really nervous, particularly those in the community colleges. Though this time around, the universities are worried too. Being nervous brings out the arguments in favour of training instead of education - a not too subtle poke at universities by community colleges.
Here’s the problem as I see it. Training is the process by which specific skills for defined tasks are acquired. Training is what keeps us from having to re-invent the wheel every time. Training is essential in trades. I don’t want to hire a plumber or a carpenter with no training, it wouldn’t end well. Training is what lets you know which screw or fitting to use. The key is you know what but you don’t have to know why. Training is increasingly common in the business world. “This is the way you do it – I don’t know why - it just is.”
Education, on the other hand, is the honing of creativity and critical thinking skills. This could be thought of making sure someone knows there are basic machines, how they work (pulley, inclined plane, lever, etc) and then turning them loose to try and solve a series of problems using these ideas. It is possible to figure out specific knowledge from the general principles, but you may re-invent the wheel along the way. It is also possible to come up with new solutions and new ideas from education. These new solutions and ideas are basic to economic growth. The key to education is you may not know what, but once you’re told you know why.
The Atlantic Provinces’ “education systems” have actually been about training rather than education, even after the removal of shop classes (I always liked shop by the way). The question is always, “What job can I get with this degree or diploma?” That’s not education, that’s training. There is damned little education going on. It shows in our economic performance.
The point I’m trying to make is really simple. Training is essential for keeping things going as they are. Education is essential for growth and improvement. We need to make sure that both are available and both are of high quality. In short we need some real education.