By Richard Vedder
When I was the Spellings Commission, I kept hearing from businessmen that they were having to do a lot of on the job training of workers who did not get adequate education at their universities. General Motors has run engineering programs and other subjects at schools for decades. McDonald's runs thousands of persons through its Hamburger University every year.
Some day, a company will say to bright 18 year olds --come to our corporate university, study real cheap --but agree to stay with us as an employee for five years after graduation (or some such arrangement). Companies will get the kind of employees they want, kids will get a good education taught in a cost effective manner (I suspect). In a sense, the approach will be a throw back to indentured servitude, when young people came to America and worked for someone for modest wages for several years --in return for passage. A reader raised that prospect to me in an email recently, which I made then into a much commented upon blog.
Even now among uneducated Americans, learning on the job is criticial. Workers in their 50s with less than a high school education make about double what 20 year old workers with that education make. The higher productivity of the older workers no doubt reflects allow of specialized knowledge workers accumulate on the job.
All of this raises the question: why isn't corporate America getting more into the education business? Do they think they can teach as much literally on the job as they could offering schools? Would a school and work combination program (much like some co-op engineering programs) run by Microsoft or Merck pay off? Work and learn for 5-7 years and then get a bachelor's degree. Why not? It is an intriguing question.