Bertram: Honesty, Transparency Key to Strengthening Students

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Bertram is president and CEO of Project Lead The Way. Bertram is president and CEO of Project Lead The Way.

The chief executive officer of Project Lead The Way in Indianapolis says people do a "terrible disservice" to students by simply telling them to follow their dreams without a plan on how to do so. Vince Bertram says people entering college with no clear plan leads to unemployment and underemployment and has created "a student loan debt crisis in America." In a new book, he calls on educators and mentors to help students "shape realistic dreams," and universities and colleges to be transparent about career prospects in different majors.

Bertram tells Inside INdiana Business he hopes "Dream Differently," will help students and educators navigate a career landscape that is "more complex than ever."

The New York Times best seller says the hard truth is that "the world doesn't care about your dreams." Bertram says employers care about skill sets, and what potential employees can do. He says simply pursuing a "dream job" often leads students into crippling debt, citing statistics showing the average debt for graduating seniors with student loans in 2012 was $29,400. He says, in making that kind of investment, students need to do everything they can to ensure success after graduation.

One thing they can do, he says, is know the type of education they need for the career they want. "If students know what they want to do and it doesn't require a four-year degree, then don't go to a four-year college," says Bertram.

He says, however, even without a four-year degree, students must be lifelong learners. He says being adaptable and learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills helps workers avoid being lost in the shuffle in the wake of automation and technological advances.

Bertram says universities and employers can make a major difference as well. He argues for universities to provide information on all of their majors, including data on employment chances for a certain period after graduation, average wages and the number and types of jobs available in a field. For employers, he says companies need to reach out and let students know what kind of career paths are available in their industries. He also says how they frame that is critical.

"If you make injection moldings, that's not real inspiring for a lot of students," says Bertram. "But if you're making something that contributes to something much bigger, that makes vehicles safer, helps transport families, helps our military, helps other industries grow and cities grow, then we need to start helping students understand how they're contributing to something much bigger."

Bertram says employers and universities play a crucial role in helping students plan.
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