A Question of Talent Arbitrage
By Bryan Caplan
I just received another thought-provoking email about my new book. Here it is, reprinted anonymously with the sender’s permission. I really had no solid advice for him, but perhaps EconLog readers will…
Good afternoon! I recently picked up The Case Against
Education, and thoroughly enjoyed it, so thank you for your contribution.
Like many of your readers, I suspect, my interest in the
book was born of reflection on my own educational journey. Even as an actuary
that directly applies my college major (math) and subsequent education (FCAS)
more than most professionals, I am horrified by how much time and energy I have
spent on formal learning. I have also hired young workers into corporate roles
many times over, and have often noted how candidates’ costly education serves
only to keep their resume towards the top of my pile.
After experience working with a couple well-credentialed
duds, though, I’ve had periodic conversations with executives at my company
([redacted]) about whether there’s a better way. I’d love to convince
your “Good Student” to work for me for four years in some sort of long-term
internship, rather than running up tens of thousands in debt in pursuit of
their sheepskin; the resulting professional would be light years more
employable in year 5 and onward. Ultimately, even assuming I could persuade the
Student, it’s difficult to convince corporate hiring managers to forego a very
strong signal that’s paid for by public policy and the students themselves.
I cannot help but think that with this much inefficiency in
the system, though, there must be some opportunity for talent arbitrage. I’m
curious, since you’ve spent so much time investigating this topic- have you
come across any sort of research on alternative talent sourcing? Perhaps an
alternative hiring program that’s trying to break the cycle of waste? Your book
has practical application for politicians/voters/students, but I’d love to find
an incentive for the corporate world to be an agent of change as well.