This week a news release on a survey about the general public’s attitude toward education arrived in my digital inbox. I’m not sure how I ended up on the mailing list for it. Getting inundated by “news” releases from marketing staff of all stripes, whether or not it has anything to with what we write about is something all editors have to put up with.
In this case, that education attitudes survey actually had some interesting stats, although I’ve never heard of this organization and don’t know if the survey was well done or not. It claims most Canadians have some pretty progressive and sensible views on getting an education. Surprisingly, it finds the newest generation doesn’t view university as important as the Boomers did. Gen Z (the newest one) thinks trade school is just as good a bet when it comes to preparing to earn a living.
I tend to agree with them. When I got my university diploma in general arts, someone asked me what that qualified me to do. Well, I had to admit, nothing really. It didn’t teach me how to do plumbing or repair a diesel engine. What it did do, however, was give me a broader outlook on the world. That provided me with an invaluable foundation to build a technical education on, but I still had to develop some practical skills. So, I took classes at a trade school too, lots of them.
But most important, I think, among the survey results was an acknowledgement by 91 per cent of the population that education needs to be a lifelong process. That is as true in farming today as anywhere, and a visit to John Deere’s Intelligent Solutions Group R&D building in Des Moines, Iowa, last month emphasized that.
When I started covering ag machinery as a writer many years ago, it was primarily about the iron. Every year the story was which brand was going to one-up the other in maximum horsepower ratings on their flagship tractor. Would we see 500? Then later, could we see 600? Those were the headlines.
Today it’s who is going to up their digital game, which is what engineers and scientists at Deere’s ISG building spend their day at. Who will jump onto the autonomy train? How can brands provide new ways to collect and use machine-collected data? And who in the world would have expected one of the biggest exhibitors at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to be John Deere? But last year that’s exactly who it was, and Deere will be back there again this winter.
Many Canadians, the survey claims, think digital and virtual learning will be the norm. People believe their smartphones will be their key portal to knowledge in the very near future. They’re probably right, even now.
As technology advances, having an education becomes even more important. There is already too much information out there to ignore. To be successful, it will be necessary to know how to access it and make sense of it. Continuing to absorb new knowledge as it becomes available will be critical, even for plumbers, mechanics or other tradespeople. And in an ever-changing world, that is especially true for farmers.