By Maricarmen Gonzalez and Erick Izaguirre
The Business Dictionary defines a professional as a “Person formally certified by a professional body or belonging to a particular profession by having completed a required course of studies and/or practice”. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards.”
The term professional is commonly used to refer to a person who holds a college degree. Reason why exist a marked distinction between the terms profession and occupation where the latter is associated to physical work and the former related to mental activity.
Being a professional has, for several decades, been considered a high-status position in society. However, more and more teenagers and young adults around the world, and especially in Latin America are starting to question the benefits of studying from four to five years in the university. “Should I really spend four or five years of study to become a professional? Is it worth it?” These are just some of the queries that have become increasingly common in realities like Latin America. Unemployment, Lack of job opportunities and well paid “professional” employments have led thousands of teenagers and young adults to choose technical careers instead of an undergraduate education.
Career technical education teaches a broad range of skills which apply to different jobs. Technical education entails learning solid academic skills that students can put to use in real life situations at work. According to SITEAL (2005), the percentages of students between the ages of 18 and 29 who finish their secondary education and continue to a higher education, to then drop out of college are alarming. This means that the option for vocational training open doors to employment.
These numbers clearly show a new trend in education that meets the needs of both, the employers and employees. Among the most attractive benefits of technical careers are a larger demand for technicians, higher earnings, and the service provided to the individuals and the country.
Today vocational and technical careers are in high demand. In fact, there are more job openings for technical careers than for undergraduate professionals, especially those that are related to accounting, business and health, among others. However, it has not always been so.
Towards the end of the twentieth century, a bachelor’s degree was a must if a student wanted to succeed or secure for a higher position within a company. The best grades and performance during the career reflected preparation and success, regardless of the hands-on training or real-life practice, the college graduate may have had. Technology and globalization changed the scene quite a bit, not only changing the skills required for a job but workplaces themselves. Modern workplaces are constantly changing, and those who will succeed should possess and develop a diverse set of competencies that will allow them to perform not one or two roles in the company, but take over any position needed to face the situations that companies nowadays do.
Technical education prepares students with the skills, competencies, and practice to deal with the present and future technology. Looking back in history, after World War II, higher education represented a standard of living. It represented a safe path to security and a brilliant future. Big businesses were in high demand of professionals to manage and increase production. During the late 80s, big companies changed to small businesses where many kinds of skills were required to execute diverse tasks. Such performance claimed for a different kind of education, more dynamic and diversified. Thus, technical education fulfilled these requirements in less time and reaching healthier and better wages.
According to Forbes, technical and vocational jobs are not only better paid but considerably growing and on high demand. Undoubtedly, the tech industry is among the best-paying ones, a crucial factor to take into consideration students, who find themselves in the currently so common dilemma of professional or technician, have become much more aware.
In addition to the great demand for technicians and the so attractive wages technical careers offer nowadays, people who study a vocational career can also find their realization in their significant impact on their society and their countries. Compared to the end of last century when health and social work were not valued; nowadays, jobs known as community and health services are essential for society’s growth and development. Thus, these occupations provide countries with a better level of life, adding competitiveness and productivity to the working sector. Workers in health and human services supply assistance in their areas which are helpful and valuable, and by helping their society, they help their country. Such services careers are an important vocation.
Even though the term professional has for so long been restricted to an exclusive list of occupations, usually related to college degrees, the emergence of so many highly-valued areas of work has sparked the debate on what a professional is. In his article “Traits that convey character also define a professional,” Peter Post beautifully lists and describes some of the characteristics that any person performing an occupation should possess so as to be considered professional. Among these traits, Post mentions consideration, respect, and honesty. Taking such characteristics and the benefits of studying a technical career herein previously mentioned and described into consideration, there is no trace of doubt that our modern society and the new economy are eagerly awaiting for a giant wave of brand new professionals, professionals in technical careers committed to constant learning and service who become experts in a specialized sector of any given industry.
SITEAL (2005). La educación superior en América Latina: acceso, permanencia y equidad. Datos destacados. Buenos Aires: IIEP-OEIUNESCO
“What Is Professional? Definition and Meaning.”BusinessDictionary.com. Web. 10 May 2017.
Post, Peter Globe Correspondent 2014 August “Just what does it mean to be a professional? – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p., 17 Aug. 2014. Web. 10 May 2017.