All over the world, a B degree pretty much is the new matric. Without it you struggle. It's a good question whether this is really necessary. Well, here in South Africa perhaps, because a matric certificate doesn't guarantee basic literacy and numeracy. Only way to tell if someone can read is if he has a university degree.
You'd think this would be a clue to those in charge that education is fubar.
Suppose you start a college to educate people who were formerly not educated, say, you award diplomas in gardening and domestic work. Well, from the employer's point of view, someone with such a diploma is likely worth more than someone without, so before long, it becomes almost impossible to get a job as domestic worker or gardener unless you have a post school certificate in those fields.
Sure. Historically there have been specialist colleges for all kinds of things. Back in the day a national diploma could get you pretty far.
From what I hear, people with a university degree decidedly stand a better chance to get employed
Supply and demand. If you start dishing degrees out they won't be worth the paper they're printed on, as you allude to later...
but I'm not sure they necessarily get employed in the field they studied.
Depends on the field of study. Most engineers end up doing something engineering related. The humanities is where you find the most non-applied degrees imho.
It would not surprise me at all to learn that there are thousands of supermarket cashiers with degrees in biblical studies, sociology and political science.
But if you have a supermarket, why appoint someone with matric if you can get someone with a degree, at the same salary?
Does the guy with the degree really stack shelves better? Or does he just grow to loathe his job, and me, and try to work me out of my position? The person with the degree, if they're actually sharp, will probably out-compete their age-peers in the supermarket simply because they are smarter to begin with. As such, making it through a '4 year degree' is indicating tenacity, hard work, and a certain level of intelligence. So it is serving it's purpose, if not directly.
Are we perhaps over-educating ourselves, quite unnecessarily?
I don't think so. To compete in the modern world this is indeed necessary. But I would've expected the curricula of high-schools to improve, much like my matric math was not my mother's, etc. Instead we seem keen to go the other way.
our industries can't complete projects because of a shortage of welders and plumbers and electricians, etc. etc.
Wellll, there are also the thorny issues of labour unions, bargaining councils, protracted strikes, ludicrous demands, enforced minimum wage, the difficulty firing non-performing staff, prescribed minimum benefits, mandatory BBBEE (paying workers with shares)..... Labour is pricing itself out of the market. After vicious strikes in the mining sector SA's mining companies finally decided to catch up with the rest of the world and start large-scale automation. You cannot really fault them for it, and if anything industrial skills like that are going to be in waning demand. If you watch a Tesla being built
you realise industrialised labour is screwed
Everyone wants a degree; no one wants to do the actual work, but they don't want us to import Zimbabweans to do it either.
As I imply above, the problem is supply and demand. The industrial revolution is over in most of the world.
In short, huge numbers of South Africans live in an unsustainable fantasy world, that will come crashing down around them before long.
It may just be that we're all living in a fantasy world. However more degrees will not solve the problem. I expect the landscape of the global economy will change radically in the next 100 years.