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Saturday, June 29, 2013 12:00 am

People skills

Back on Sept 29, 2011, I asked in The college game whether college was always the only or the best way to prepare for a career. In Education Isn't the Same as Skills, Slate columnist Matt Ygesias warns that we shouldn't be so blithe about identifying formal education with skills, since it is possible for the economy to change in ways that simply start rewarding a different set of skills than the ones colleges teach.

Indeed that is happening now, or rather has been happening for years as jobs shifts into the service sector. His argument is one that I find hard to disagree with – advance computers, and machines run by advanced computers, will replace more and more of the pay-attention-and-put-things-in-the-right-box white-collar jobs that people need college degrees to get.

The jobs that will be left will be those in which “people skills” -- a warm smile or a firm handshake or an appropriately encouraging tone of voice -- are essential, and who has better people skills than live people? And when Yglesias says, ”Those kinds of skills aren't great skills to learn from hanging out with college professors,” he sounds like a man who knows.

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