Several years ago a relative chose to leave his job as a laborer with a landscaping/outdoor construction business. He had decided to further his education by attending a local community college and taking a course in bricklaying – one that he was assured would improve his employability and earning potential.
The glaring problem was that he was almost fifty years old, and becoming journeyman bricklayer would require approximately 6,000 hours (about three years full-time) experience upon completion of the course. At no point did the career counsellors at this predatory educator feel that was worth mentioning.
Not surprisingly no masonry companies were interested in hiring a 50-year-old apprentice. The "education" did not improve his employability or earning potential at all. In fact he couldn't even get his old job back. Instead, with approximately fifteen years of potential earning as a laborer left, he had squandered almost two of them on the course and fruitless job search that would follow, along with the cost of the course.
Having identified a good customer this predatory educator was quick to try and sell him additional product in the form of more completely useless education. First it was a course in sustainable construction – a hot new field they promised would assure interesting and lucrative employment.
But, again, it did not help secure a job. The only result was more time wasted in school and looking for a job that wasn't there.
The cola industry recognizes the importance of what they call "heavy users". These are people that consume a lot of product, and they are recognized as being vital. It's easier, and cheaper, to sell more cola to an existing customer than to recruit the several new customers it would take to consume the same amount of product.
Likewise, this predatory educator had now recognized a heavy user of their product, useless education, and they were keen to exploit him. This time it was plumbing, and again it came with the promise of employability and enhanced earning potential.
And, again, they overlooked a few key problems. First, the student was now a few years older and in his fifties. Second, the apprentice hours required were higher – 8,000 (about four years). If he could get an apprentice position he would be closer to sixty before qualifying as a journeyman, an age most people want out of the trades.
Of course nobody was looking for a 50+ apprentice. The school assured him it was the fault of the industry – that unions and nepotism had always meant that it was very hard to get into (too bad they didn't mention that before). Again the result was the loss of more time, more savings, and more potential earnings.
And, again, the predatory educator was keen to step in and push more useless product on their favorite heavy user. This time it was the most ridiculous of all.
They guaranteed that graduates of their arborist program would get a job. The nature of this "guarantee" was never clear. Did it mean you got your tuition back if you didn't get a job? Your tuition plus lost earnings? It seemed less like a guarantee and more like another empty promise, another example of predatory education.
Arborists are the guys that, with a chainsaw in one hand, climb trees and prune them from high in the air. It is considered extremely dangerous, one of the most dangerous legal jobs in North America, with a very real threat of death and dismemberment. Arborists are typically young (the physical toll is such that most have washed out by 35), tall, athletic, and supremely fit.
What responsible institution could possibly encourage 54-year-old lifelong smoker of (at best) average height to consider this a viable career? At best they would be entering the trade two decades past the age when most people had long washed out.
Of course no remotely responsible institution would even consider it. Only the most shameless predatory educator, intent on keeping a heavy user sitting in their classroom until they had completely drained his savings would even contemplate it. Say hello to the sad joke that is Sir Sandford Fleming College.
My relative started the course and, mercifully, did not pass the tree-climbing component of the course. Objectively this was the possible outcome. It meant that he would not have to again face rejection because of his age. More importantly he would not be exposed to the physical danger that had so worried everyone in the family. Crisis averted.
But once again this predatory educator decided to step in, this time to encourage the student to spend another year and retake the course.
The irresponsibility of it is shocking. Now, at almost 55 years of age, he has at best ten years of earning as a general laborer. This ridiculous school, which is supposed to help prepare people for careers, would rather see him squander more of his savings and a minimum of 10% of his remaining earning potential chasing a dream that at best leads to more rejection, and at worst to serious physical harm. This is predatory education.
I once tried to point out to my relative that this "school" had done him absolutely no good. That he had given them a ton of money (from both his own savings and from the government on his behalf). That he had given up more than five years where he could have been earning. That none of their "guidance" had helped him. I tried to explain that they were just a business, selfishly trying to sell more product to a customer that they had identified as being a heavy user.
He looked at me like I was crazy. "It's not a business" he said "it's a school".
That's the problem right there – a fundamental misunderstanding. That "school" is a business. The product they sell is education. It might not be a for-profit private company, but every one of those administrators, department heads and instructors is strongly motivated to have full classrooms. And it's much easier to sell more product to existing customers than acquire new customers.
The one thing this predatory educator seems to do well is help students fill out various financial aid forms, ensuring the flow of money from government programs. This ridiculous college convinced someone who was gainfully employed to quit their job and spend the foreseeable future as a full-time student (or looking for jobs that would never be available to them). In either "state" (in school or fruitlessly looking for work) they would be using up their savings and government funds instead of earning money. It's hard to imagine a bigger waste for the student or society.
Seems to work out just great for the school though, and it will be interesting to see what wildly inappropriate and completely useless predatory education they try and sell next.