It is widely acknowledged everywhere in the civilised world that universities are not a place you go to learn. It used to be that they were a “temple of wisdom” where only bookish people would go to learn real stuff. You needed some real brains to go there.
Now of course the ersatz upward mobility created by democracy has pretty much broken that system. Now everybody has to go to college, because we are all equally smart. But we are not, and as much as we like pretending we are, being able to filter the smart from the dumb is still very necessary. Universities historically were a very good filter; dumb people just didn’t go there. But you didn’t need to go to University to prove you are smart. My father always tells me about the dozens of IQ tests he had to take when job hunting back in the 60s. You could also become an apprentice using some family connections, and if you were worth anything, over time your CV would show that.
That doesn’t work now; you can’t directly test your employees, and everybody today goes to some college or another. You have to. Gotta keep up with the Jones. So for a business today, a high-school grad pretty much means “dumb“. Who doesn’t go to college anyway? This chicken-and-egg conundrum has made university education a hell of a business.
But the fact remains that STEM grads aside, University is a waste of time. It’s a huge waste of time. You are losing 4 years or more of your most healthy, most active years. Not only doing nothing, but socialising in an artificial paradise full of horny co-eds, being taught idealistic bullshit that can only fuck up your expectations. As Houellebecq said, compared to college, joining the workforce is like entering the grave. I can’t understand why so few people go mad after the transition. It’s unreal.
From which you can deduce that the optimal arrangement for society would be for companies to hire their employees before they have gone through their college years, but after the have gone through the university selection process. And that’s what Japan has been doing for some time.
Japanese companies hiring process is a very weird ritualised process. They (generally) only hire newly graduated kids, and they only open the hiring process for a set time every year. They first open “Explanation meetings” (説明会） in big cities where interested kids would go learn about the company and what it does. If you’re interested you would grab an application form and submit a handwritten application, if you went through you would go to an interview, or several if needed.
In the old days this process would start after graduation. Then companies competing for the best grads would start the process a couple of days earlier, then weeks, then months. As of 2011 the hiring process started at the middle of junior year, when you would be given an “assurance of hire”, and join he company after graduation, more than a year later. You can’t apply if you’re already a senior, and will lose your job if you fail to graduate later. Universities have responded by making the curriculum easy to finish in two and a half years, so you can focus on job hunting at the second half of junior year, and use your senior year to travel or whatever you fancy.
The general sense of it all is that all a company cares is that you are smart enough to get into college, and you have the minimum conscientiousness to graduate. They mostly don’t care about your studies, your grades, and feel no remorse in interrupting your student life at the middle of it. It is understood that the content of your education will be worthless. So why insist on college grads at all?
According to this post by Noah Smith (H/T Cheap chalupas), who
resides used to reside in Japan, the insistence on employees having a college degree is because kids learn to socialise at university, have some parties, date some girls, and that motivates people to work harder, which business value. Well, if businesses valued their employees having a life they would stop forcing them to do overtime and meaningless make-work crap. All the points he gives about University enabling you to meet smart and diverse people, which gives you perspective and makes you feel cool, are good arguments for why students choose to pay big money and time to go to university. But businesses don’t really give a shit. At most they think that a kid that chooses not to go college, i.e. a kid that gives up having 4 years of partying, drinking and banging, is a loser who is likely to cause problems further on. But if companies, and particularly Japanese companies gave a shit about the mental stability of their employees, Japan wouldn’t have the suicide rate it has.
Human capital in the making
In fact some companies are starting to push the process even earlier. If companies are hiring juniors, why not hire freshmen or sophomore all the same? Well that’s what Uniqlo, the fashion brand, has started doing this year. They will open their annual hiring process as usual, but they also accepted freshmen and sophomores this time. Those that pass the selection will work on some of their stores part time while at college, and simply continue full time once they graduate. So they start working at the same time as they start studying. Little partying is going to go on here.
Perhaps it’s true that companies don’t care about intelligence in abstract. They just don’t want losers in. And a kid who doesn’t go to college is weird. Creepy. The undeniable intelligence signaling, combined with the unrealistically fun and fulfilling environment that colleges provide, no sane kid is going to give up going to college for a head start in entering the workforce grave. That’s not cool. And that’s all there is about it, signaling social adjustment. Normality. Not human capital. Do people have more human capital after 4 years of leftist indoctrination, binge drinking and easy sex with empowered sluts? Give me a break. The industrial revolution happened without college requirements. The post war economic boom happened without college requirements.
But who am I arguing against? Economists make a living of assigning simple and rational causes to complex phenomena. Inflation promotes consumption! Immigration causes economic growth! Cheap chalupas correlate with national happiness! Business want employees who party hard! Right. If this were a rational world, economists wouldn’t get paid. They’re no better than Byzantine theologians.