I am the bearer of bad news. By the time your child finishes her specialist degree, it will be out of date. In fact, the very idea of a disciplinary degree is becoming worthless around the world. The head of one of the largest university libraries in the world does not have an LIS (library and information science) degree. The leader of one the largest banks in another country has a general arts degree without a single commercial subject in her background. One of the most successful journalists in SA does not have a media studies degree.

What is going on? Quite simply, the world has changed.

The 100 young people I was asked to address this week are the lucky ones. They get tagged by the untidy term “neither in education, employment or training” (NEET). For various reasons most of the members of this energetic and smart group of youth did not or could not access university after finishing matric — some did not have money for studies and others were undecided on careers. Now they are doing a “gap year” as teaching assistants in poor schools (four days a week) and learning the art of leadership (one day a week) as part of a university initiative. In other words, the essential skills they need for the prince of professions are learnt on the job under the mentorship of experienced and senior teachers.

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