By Yvonne Sam
From time immemorial, the mantra has been the same, from every Black parent to their children: “Go to university and get a degree, so you can get a good job”.
Such a move was adopted as the formula for success. But, how well has this formula for success worked out for our people?
The wealth gap, between Blacks and Whites in Canada, is about as wide as the gap between the Earth and Pluto — and getting wider.
When a storm looms on the horizon, wise people engage in what is called “disaster preparedness”. How do we prepare our children for the future? Should we continue to sell them the same old “get a degree, get a job” song, that we have been singing from way, way back, and since way, way when?
Corporate Canada is replacing most of these jobs with robots, machines and artificial intelligence options. Let’s be clear, as technology advances, this will only intensify. Jobs will continue to dry up; particularly for Black people, who tend to occupy these jobs. It behooves us to make sure that our young people are equipped with marketable skills that will empower them to create jobs for themselves,, as these corporate jobs dry up.
I recently had a conversation with a vocational school principal, who informed me that the city of Montreal was critically in need of welders, plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics, aircraft mechanics, and even landscapers, to name a few.
I was taken aback at the numbers. A graduate with a welding, or plumbing certificate, can always find well-paying work. He said that he was a recent speaker at a high school Career Day, but very few young people seemed interested.
This is due to a lack of understanding, passed down through the culture. Our children must be taught that to perform hard work is honorable, even if it means getting your hands dirty. The key is to make sure you are working for yourself. We need to be taught to “do for self”.
One of the most effective ways to position one’s self, is to learn — and master — a trade. To learn welding or plumbing, in this day and time, is to be able to write your own ticket. Plumbers, welders, machinists, aircraft mechanics, electricians and other trades will always be in demand. Learn a trade and turn that trade into a profitable business. The goal must always be ownership.
We must raise hell and demand that they put trades back in our educational institutions. This creates options for our youth. Our young boys must learn to do something with their hands, besides scroll through Instagram and play video games.
Let the men of the community, who have mastered these trades, create Saturday schools, where young people are taught drywalling, landscaping, carpentry, etc. This is key to our survival. I am not saying that university/college does not have its place. Certain fields, such as accounting, law and medicine require college degrees. If you get a college degree make sure it is one you can use.
My advice is to do both. Even if you have a degree, you should still pick up a trade. It will give you something to fall back on when things do not seem to be adding up.
Let us, as a community, do a better job at educating our youth about trade opportunities, entrepreneurship and ownership. Encourage them to master a skill and bet on themselves.
An economic storm is coming. It is our responsibility to make sure our youth are prepared.
Yvonne Sam, a retired Head Nurse and Secondary School Teacher, is Vice-president of the Guyana Cultural Association of Montreal. A regular columnist for over two decades with the Montreal Community Contact, her insightful and incursive articles on topics ranging from politics, human rights and immigration, to education and parenting have also appeared in the Huffington Post, Montreal Gazette, XPressbogg and Guyanese OnLine. She is also the recipient of the Governor General of Canada Caring Canadian Citizen Award.