Education Will Bless Your Life
Well, thank you very much. What a warm and generous introduction. I appreciate it very much, and it is a pleasure for me to be with you today. If I were to summarize my remarks—I hope I can do it in a phrase or a sentence—education will bless your lives. Education will bless your lives. I think we learned a wonderful lesson at the last general conference from President Uchtdorf, and the basic theme of this in the priesthood session was “Stand where you are and lift.”
Now, I know he wasn’t talking about education; he was talking about church service. But I want to just make that little transition to say, “Stand where you are and lift.” You are at LDS Business College. Stand here and lift. Educate yourself and bless your life. You will never regret it.
If you are feeling any uncertainties at all, you are in the majority of young people that have started college. If you know exactly what you want to do, whether it be further education or employment or some combination, you’re in the minority. I hadn’t figured out what I wanted to do until I was in my mid-twenties. I’m sorry to say that, and I know it was a concern to my parents. But it took me that long of getting some experience. And I had to be a member of the Fraternal Brotherhood of Laborers and Hod Carriers in the AFL-CIO, and I learned that lesson that that’s something that I did not want to do for my life’s work. I was a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, and I fought forest fires all over the western United States, and I learned that I did not want to do that for my life’s work. I did a lot of things, and it took me until I was in my mid-twenties to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. So if you have a little uncertainty about exactly what you want to do, don’t worry about it.
If you continue with your education and you finish without any kind of interruption, you’re going to be in a minority because all of us have interruptions. You know, we have stops, we have starts, we go on missions, we do other kinds of things. But you don’t want to give up. You want to stay with your education, even though you may have an interruption. If you enter a field of employment and you stay with it for your whole life, you really are a minority. Because most of us are going to have a fairly dramatic career change four or five times in our lifetime. So all of the education that you can get to prepare you for those kinds of changes, I think is a very good thing.
And ultimately, you’re going to be the one to make that decision, and I just encourage you to be thoughtful and to be prayerful, and to stay with it. An education will bless your life.
We all are faced with fears and insecurities, and we tend to underestimate what we can do. Don’t fall prey to that. I go to a lot of commencements, and I went to one not too long ago, and I want to read to you this young woman’s comments. I just took so much encouragement from this:
“Four years ago, I thought that college would last forever. Just four days ago I thought that maybe college should last forever, and that graduating with one degree was not quite enough. I realized I was falling prey to my fears about the real world.” And then she went on to say, “I used to be afraid of failure. I used to be afraid of falling in love. I was afraid of coming in second place. I was afraid of not meeting people’s expectations. I was afraid to take a stance. I was afraid to explore my potential.”
Then she goes on: “But four years have gone by, and I stand before you as a woman who is no longer afraid. I am no longer afraid.”
Do you have any fears? Do you have any doubts? Do you have any apprehensions? Don’t we all. Get an education and overcome them. Don’t underestimate yourself. Stand here for now and lift your life. And I’m going to give you a little information as to why I think this is so important.
This is from the First Presidency; it was authored by President Gordon B. Hinckley. Now with a little help here I’m going to be in business. A prophet’s counsel and prayer for youth: “You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all of the education you can get.”
Now catch this: “Sacrifice a car. Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”
Okay. You belong to a church that teaches the importance of education. You have a mandate from the Lord to educate your mind and your heart and your hands. The Lord has said, “Teach ye diligently…of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—that ye may be prepared in all things” (D&C 88:78-80).
Again, this was offered by President Hinckley, and this a later conference: “It is so important that you young men and you young women get all of the education that you can.” I want you to see that there is a deliberate separation there. This is not “you young men go out and get all the education you can and get prepared and provide for your wives and provide for your families.” I think this says young men and you young women get all of the education you can.
“The Lord has said very plainly that his people are to gain the knowledge of countries and kingdoms and of the things of the world through the process of education, even by study and by faith. Education is the key that will unlock the door of opportunity to you. It is worth sacrificing for; it is worth working at to educate your mind and your hands, and you will be able to make a great contribution to the society of which you are a part. And you will be able to reflect honorably on the Church of which you are a member.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take advantage of every educational opportunity that you can possibly afford.” You’re sitting on one right now. You’re at LDS Business College. You’re sitting in and on an educational opportunity that you need to take advantage of in every way that you possibly can.
Now, I’m going to talk to you about some things that are happening in our world. Now people I know have been saying, “How in the world did our economy melt down virtually overnight? How did the stock market drop so precipitously?” I think we recognize now that this is not something that happened precipitously; this has been happening for a long time, and we should have seen it.
Now another thing that’s happening is that we are losing our educational advantage as a nation and as a state, and it’s going to nip us if we don’t make some kind of concerted effort now. Let me show you what this means to you as the individual. This is educational-in-training pay, Utah median income by educational level. What is not listed here, and I’m just going to give passing reference to it, is those students who drop out of high school.
Students who drop out of high school are headed to poverty. I can’t say it any more plainly than that. If you drop out of high school, you are headed to poverty. If you drop out of college, you’re toying with poverty. You need a quality education. A high school diploma in this state is going to pay $22,437. Now maybe two months ago, you could have qualified for a mortgage, but you can’t anymore, I can assure you. You cannot live on $22,000 a year. Young men, if you marry a young woman in this College and you try to support her and your children on $22,000 a year, you’re going to be a very disappointed young man. Now look at the associate’s degree. You’re in a college that grants associate’s degrees. Look at that increase. It’s not quite 50%, but it’s more than a 40% increase in your income if you’ll finish as associate’s degree and apply it. If you get a bachelor’s degree, you’re now up to $45,000. Big difference.
I’ve been watching this for a long, long time and if you go back 25 years the difference between high school graduates and a person with a college degree was not very great, because so many young men could go out and go to Kennecott or Geneva Steel or the mines or the railroads or the Defense Depot, and they could make a good living and support a family. Those jobs are basically gone. There is no Geneva Steel. The mines have been mechanized. Kennecott Copper is not nearly what it used to be. So if you’re out in the marketplace, don’t find out too late the best you can do is make the state’s average wage, which is $13.00 an hour. You’ll be disappointed.
If you have the good fortune that you can stay with education long enough that you can get a bachelor’s degree and get a master’s degree, you can see the impact. Those with an advanced degree in this state average $65,000 a year—three times what you can earn as a high school graduate.
Now our work force is changing. Most of the good jobs that will emerge in the future are going to require some post-secondary education. You can see that jobs where you don’t need a high school diploma and jobs with a high school diploma constitute about 32% of the workplace. So some have said to me, “Well, there are plenty of jobs there.”
Let me tell you what the jobs are that are in this part of the pie: waiters, waitresses, custodians, food service workers, and people in call centers. You’re going to be fixed at abut $12.00 to $13.00 an hour, probably no benefits, and clearly no pension. That’s in that category.
Now, let’s look at some post-secondary—that would be an associate’s degree or a little more. Thirty-seven percent of the new jobs are going to require some post-secondary, and thirty-one percent are going to require a bachelor’s degree. So in the future, 68% of the emerging jobs in our economy are going to require at least an associate’s degree or a degree that’s equivalent to that. For example, I was in labor and hod carrying at one time, and I worked with journeymen—people that had prepared themselves to be journeymen plumbers and electricians and steelworkers. Those people have to go through two to four years of training and become masters in their craft. They can do very, very well.
The people who are not going to survive in our kind of tumultuous economy are those that are low-skilled workers. Low-skilled workers are going to have low pay. So the big demand in the future will be high skills and as much education as you can get.
This is what it’s going to look like in a bar graph. You can see where the real gains are. On-the-job training between 2004 and 2014, about an 11% increase and 8 ½% increase with moderate OJT, 8.7% with long-term OJT, work experience in a related occupation. You can learn some things on the job. That’s valuable. But if you get a post-secondary vocational award—something you could get here—get a business degree, that would be a 17.7% increase in those jobs. Look at the associate’s degree. A 25% increase in jobs if you have an associate’s degree. A 19.6% increase with a bachelor’s degree. 16.6% with a post-secondary and work experience. If you have a doctorate, there will be nearly a 31% increase for those that have that kind of training.
Now don’t be put off by this. Don’t be—you know, just go after it. You’re going to have to have more education in the future than we’ve had in the past. It’s just where we are.
Now I’m going to talk to you about some of the things that are happening nationally. If the United States is to remain competitive economically, meet workforce demands and create opportunities for more Americans, we must dramatically increase the number of students entering and graduating from college. But we are faced at the moment with a little bit of a disconnect. If you start in the ninth grade and—say I’ve got a hundred students in the ninth grade—and say how many of them go on to high school, how many of them graduate from high school, how many go to college, and how many have an associate’s degree after four years, how many of them have a bachelor’s degree after six years—we’ve lost 75%. We just lose that many people. They give up. In a time when the economy is going to require more, we have too many people giving up on themselves and giving up on their education.
This is another study that’s just been finished called “Hitting Home: Quality Cost and Access.” High education correlates with state economic strength and high income. We are losing ground to other nations, largely because of relatively low college completion rates and U.S. deficit in degree attainment posing a serious threat to the nation’s economic well being. This is a study that came out in March of 2007, so this is a big issue for the state, a big issue for the nation, and somehow we’ve got to persuade our youth to stay in college. And we’ve got to persuade some of you to go back to college after a year or two, after you have your associate’s degree, to go on. Because the future of our state, the future of our nation is going to depend on it.
Case in point: We have a number of engineering companies in this state right now who cannot grow because they cannot get enough engineers. There are 1200 to 1500 job vacancies for engineers in this state as I speak. Starting salary is $55,000 a year with a bachelor’s degree. We can’t get enough; companies can’t grow. So this is a big state issue and a big national issue.
Now, here’s something that is surprising. This is based on the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and it was updated by Janice Houston in 2006. These are four counties where we’re expecting big things, big economic growth. I just want you to see what’s happening. I hate to use my age range—I’m going to cheat a little bit, and I’m going to say look at this age range for Utah County: 45 to 64. I know I’m cheating a little bit. Look at the men. Nearly 43% of the men in Utah County that are between the ages of 45 and 64 have a bachelor’s degree.
Now look at your age cohort, or a little more—the 25 to 34 year olds. Whoa. We’ve lost 11%. The older population is much better educated than the younger population. How could that be? Look at Salt Lake County. Look at the men—36%, 36 ½ % 45 to 64 years old have a bachelor’s degree, but of the younger population only 26%. We’re not moving in the right direction.
Look at Washington County. I read this to the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and I almost got thrown out, because I said, “For men down here, nearly 32% in my age range have a bachelor’s degree, but only 16% of the younger population.” In Davis County it’s the same story. When you look at state, the older population is better educated than the younger population. We’re just going in the wrong direction.
Now this is the percentage of adults with an associate’s degree or higher. This is 2003 data, so I know I’m a little dated here. You can see where the United States is with that yellow line. We’re doing all right. We have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven nations ahead of us, in terms of the percentage of the population that has at least an associate’s. Now let’s add in the older population. I’m sorry, that was the younger population. Now let’s look at the older population, 45 to 54. I know it’s a little different demographic, but take a look at it.
You see what’s happened in Canada? You see what’s happened in Japan? You see what’s happened in Korea? You see what’s happened in Sweden and Finland and Norway and Belgium? Dramatic increases. The younger population have much higher levels of education than the older population. And you’ll see that in many other places—Spain, France, Ireland, Australia. There are only two exceptions to where the older population is better prepared than the younger population. Two countries—the United States and Germany. This is not a statistic we’re proud of.
Last summer I spent some time in Ireland, and it is the darling of western Europe because so many young people have completed degrees. They have improved their trade relations with Great Britain, with Europe and with the United States, and Ireland is now—like I say, they are leading western Europe on so many economic indicators. But one of the things they’ve done is they’ve invested in education, starting with the early grades all the way through college.
A new book has just been published by the Department of Labor—thank you; I’m down to ten minutes. I’m going to hurry—this is Tough Choices in Tough Times. It’s a good analysis of the situation that we’re in. The U.S. is no longer the best-educated workforce in the world. International counterparts are getting more and better education. Surprise, surprise. Thirty years ago, the United States had 30% of the world’s population of college students; today that proportion is 14%. The U.S. is dismantling the vertically-integrated firm. That’s a whole other topic. Bottom line? Many of our good jobs are going elsewhere so they can be done more efficiently and cheaper.
No doubt Detroit will recover itself and start producing automobiles again, but the likelihood is they will not be built in Detroit. Where will they be built? They will be built along the Pacific Rim and in Mexico. So for all those young high school guys in Indiana and Illinois and Michigan, who were going to come out of high school and get this high-paying job, it’s not going to be there. And it’s happening to so many of our companies that they are simply going abroad. The workforce is better in some cases, and it’s certainly cheaper. So that’s what it means.
I’m going to go to my recommendations. The main thing is, stay in school. Finish your degree. Don’t give up on it. Don’t give up on yourselves. Stand and lift yourself right here where you are. If you decide to transfer to BYU, great. If you go to BYU-Idaho, great. If you finish here and go out into the workforce and get some practical experience and then get further education, great.
Secondly, get some direct experience. Experience is a great teacher, and it’s tough to get when you’re young, I understand that. But look for internships, look for work opportunities. Get out in the marketplace. If you think you have an interest in being an architect, great. But get some hands-on experience in an architecture firm. If you like working with kids, and you think “someday I’d like to be a teacher,” get out into a classroom and volunteer and see how you like it.
I think dentistry is a wonderful field; my dad wanted me to be a dentist. I went to Weber State to be a dentist and went to my local bishop who was a dentist, and he said, “Come and practice with me for a week in my office.” And I didn’t like it. It was just me. There was nothing wrong with being a dentist, but I went back and I said to my dad, “I’m sorry, but I want to be an English major.”
And after receiving medication and getting him back, he couldn’t imagine why. “What are you going to do? What are you going to study?”
“Well, Dad, I’m going to study the British poets, and I’m going to study the American novelists.”
“What?!?” I’ll never get over his sense of just astonishment.
But I did. I got a bachelor’s degree in English and I became a teacher, and I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And I’ve done a bunch of other things in connection with that. Get some experience. Stop out for a little while; do an internship. Stop out for a while and get some practical hands-on experience. That’s great. It will shape what you want to do. I was 23, 24 years old before I finally figured out that I wanted to be in education. It was worth looking around, getting some practical experience.
Achieve as much education as you can now. Now, you may say, “Gosh. Life is hard for me right now. I’ve got a car payment, and my dorm partners are not treating me the way I want. I could go back home now and I could just get out of all of this for a year.” Let me just tell you, your chance if you make that decision, your chance of finishing plummet. If you drop out, statistically your chances go way down if you say “I’m going to take a year out and just hang out.”
Now if you take a year out and you go teach English in China or Japan, or you do something like that, hurray. But if you just take an easy way out and say, “I’m just going to kick back,” your chances of finishing your college degree and your college work go right through the floor.
And just take it from me, this is one of those things like touching hot stoves. Don’t touch that hot stove. What I’m saying to you is, as hard as it may be now, wait until you’re 30 and you say, “Boy, why didn’t I get my education? I was right there. I was right at LDS Business College.” It can’t get much better. Do it now. Don’t put it off.
Now I know we all have a kind of dream, and I just dealt with a friend of mine. This came as a shock to her at the age of 40. Married in her early 20s to a young man home from a mission, she dropped out of college. He went on to college. They had three children, they got a mortgage, they have two cars. They’re living the American Dream, except he fell in love with somebody else and they got a divorce. She is now out in the marketplace with three children and two cars and a mortgage. And she came to me and said, “I’ve been looking for a job for ninety days and the top offer I got was $11.30 an hour.”
You think it’s hard getting an education now; try it then. And I want to say this kindly, so don’t take offense at what I say. All of you young women here need an education. Somewhere, we instill a little genetic code that says something like, “I don’t need to get nearly the education of my husband, because he’s going to be very successful and he’s going to take care of me and my children.” The majority of women in this state of child-bearing age, 19 to the early 40s, the majority are working to support their families. The majority are working.
Now you’ve got to make a decision. Do I want to work for $8.50 an hour, or do I want to have my degree and work part-time and make $30.00 an hour? Now my oldest daughter took five years to get a nursing degree. She worked in a cardiac unit in the V.A. Hospital. She doesn’t work there anymore. She’s very fortunate; her husband does take care of this family and she doesn’t have to work. But until just recently, she worked one day a week at the V.A. as a nurse, and made as much in a day with full benefits, as a less-trained person who works forty hours a week.
Some of you here want to be a nurse; go for it. Go for it! You can do it in two years. Two, two-and-a-half years you can be a registered nurse. Go for it. You want to be a teacher? You want to get your associate’s degree here? Go for it. Get some experience in some teaching. Get into it. Teaching is a wonderful career. It’s not the highest paid; you’re not going to be paid what an attorney is. But you’re going to get a good salary; you’re going to get benefits and a pension.
So now is the time. Don’t put it off. Do it now. If you’ve got worries, fears, apprehensions, forget it. Get over it. Stay where you are and lift.
Now of course, keep your life in balance. I don’t want to go over the top here, which I probably am. You need balance, in your spiritual life, your educational life, social life, family life. Keep it balanced. I don’t know of a place where you can do this better than right here, because you’re balancing your education with your spiritual life. Make the most of it. And four years from now, or two years from now, I hope every young man and young woman in this audience can hold up that piece of paper and say, “Today I stand before you as a young man or a young woman who overcame my fears and my apprehensions, and I have my degree. And I have a better start on life than I had when I started.”
Education is going to bless your life in every way that I know, so hang with it. And I pray that the Lord will bless you in all of your pursuits. Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure to be with you today. Thanks.