Just In Time Learning

66In a post I wrote about “Where You Should Be Recruiting Radio Talent” I mentioned a concept of “Just In Time Learning” that struck a chord with many readers. Commenter’s said they found the idea interesting and something they had never heard or thought of before. So I thought I’d expand on that thought with a little more detail and why it’s time has come.

Toyota’s Better Idea

Manufacturers used to stock everything they would need to build a product in warehouses. It was expensive and often wasteful. Then the idea of having parts shipped just-in-time to be assembled into a finished product was introduced.

Originally called “just-in-time production,” it builds on the approach created by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, and the engineer Taiichi Ohno. The principles underlying the TPS are embodied in The Toyota Way.

College Degree Credential Creep

Once upon a time, college was an optional final stage of learning in the United States. Today even a Starbucks barista probably has a college degree. So what’s causing this college degree credential creep? In many cases the reason is that employers feel that by requiring candidates to have a bachelor’s degree they will see a higher quality group of candidates. It has nothing to do with what job skills are actually required. It’s used mainly as a screening tool. Unfortunately, two-thirds of the workforce in America gets screened out when a B.A. degree requirement is inserted into the advertisement. Burning Glass researched how the demand for a bachelor’s degree is reshaping the workforce and you can read more about all of this here.

The 20th Century College Education

When the 20th Century began, America had about a thousand colleges and those colleges had less than 200,000 students enrolled in them. By mid-century the number of colleges exploded and colleges that once had about a thousand students expanded to universities with enrollments of tens of thousands of students.

Unfortunately our 20th Century higher education system simply wasn’t designed to deliver what’s needed in a 21st Century world.

Your Teacher, Your Doctor and Your Barber

In our high tech world, things can quickly scale. Productivity grows quickly. But a teacher still teaches at the same pace. Your doctor can only see patients at the same pace.  And your barber can only cut hair at the same pace as each of these professions did in the 20th Century.

When something can’t scale, the price to provide the service goes up.

In the case of higher education, this price problem has been compounded by states reducing funding to their colleges and universities, resulting in public colleges being funded more and more by student tuition and lots of fees. This has resulted in a trillion dollar student loan crisis in America.

Certifications vs. Degrees

For the radio industry, the answer may be professional certifications versus bachelor’s degrees. Students simply can’t afford to go to college for four to six years and come out with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt to take an entry level radio job that will pay them fifteen to eighteen thousand dollars a year. Even worse, most likely the job you’re most looking to fill – sales – a college grad won’t have received any course work in learning about. Broadcasting in college is focused on teaching all of the low demand jobs in radio and the classes in the high demand jobs are either non-existent or being eliminated.

The Radio Advertising Bureau offers professional certifications in selling starting with their Radio Marketing Professional (RMP) certification. Burning Glass says that jobs in fields with strong certification and licensure standards have avoided the problem of “upcredentially.” They write: “This suggests that developing certifications that better reflect industry needs, together with industry acceptance of these alternative credentials, could reduce pressure on job seekers to pursue a bachelor’s degree and ensure that middle-skill Americans continue to have opportunities for rewarding careers, while continuing to provide employers with access to the talent they need.”

Radio’s Recruitment Mission

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB) need to spearhead the radio industry in creating bonafide certification programs for all job classifications that will be accepted by the radio industry as the equivalent (or better) than a bachelor’s degree. These programs need to be offered to high school aged students and recent high school graduates.

Certification programs can be designed to provide the kind of just-in-time learning needed for each radio position. When a person shows they’re ready to advance additional certification training can be taken to prepare them for the next higher position.

Done in this way, the training will be up-to-date, cutting edge instruction to insure the student is learning exactly the skills needed for the position they will be moving into.

Time for Radio to Think Different

The radio industry will need to attract new talent in order to stay viable and continue growing. Embracing a better form of training for the skills needed and making this a requirement versus a college bachelor’s degree is 21st Century thinking.

Many of these programs are already in place, but industry recognition and acceptance of them lags in comparison to requiring a college degree.

It’s time to think differently about how we find, train and grow the radio talent of tomorrow.


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Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized

18 responses to “Just In Time Learning

  1. Degrees are important but practice makes perfect. I was disillusioned to find grad school was more interested in producing teachers, researchers, and studying game changing cable regulation vs producing connecting content. Respectfully, all educational opportunity encourages learning but doing it for real is the essential experience. The opportunity to work at 2 commercial TVs and 6 radio stations, while building a 3kw stereo FM at the University of Hartford paved the way for sustained RF Exposure. Management degrees teach how make the trains run on time, but must attract more riders. And, respectfully, understanding the numbers doesn’t include the creativity to get them. Thanks, Dick. I look forward to your Sunday Morning Stimulators. Clark http://www.broadcastideas.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You Clark. Your comments reminded me of this quote from Ben Franklin:

      “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin


      • Rick M Singel

        Dick, back in the day, I went to work for my Dad, who was a successful life insurance agent. He wanted me to go out and sell. I told him I wanted to get a life insurance sales “PhD” first, THEN sell. He said “nope”, you do both at the same time. The best way to learn to sell is by selling. I never forgot that lesson. Your Ben Franklin quote speaks directly to that!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most things can’t be learned from a book or a classroom, but by going out there and just doing it. Your dad had a PhD in life.

        Thank you for sharing your story and reading the blog Rick. -DT


  2. Dick…I have often felt that Broadcasting should replace intern programs with apprentice programs. As you said, rarely does a 4 year college degree really prepare a student for a real job in the industry. In my case, it was the college radio station that gave me the knowledge I needed to get my first job, and that’s where the real learning began. Turn the clock ahead to today, and the difference between getting a job and not is often based on where you interned, and what you learned. I could not agree more with the concept of the industry training to the jobs that exist. It would be a lot easier for these young potential broadcasters to take the entry level positions if there’s not a $200,000+ Batchelor degree in their recent past, and they would learn what they need to know. Over my years at WABC, I saw too many young people with expensive degrees, doing jobs they knew nothing about, and which they had no training for. Let’s just say, it wasn’t always successful for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Frank, pragmatically speaking, what’s the ROI (Return On Investment) for a bachelor’s degree to begin a radio career. That’s the question we must be asking.

      Your comments echo old Ben:

      “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” -Benjamin Franklin

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article. The NAB and RAB could create certification programs to bring applicants to our industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Joel O'Brien

    The motto of the (now defunct) junior college I attended for communications back in the 70’s was “Learn By Doing.” Receiving an AAS degree did help prepare me for the biz, but…doing a couple of years with Armed Forces Radio and TV did a better job.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Josh Klinger

    I went to Georgia State in Atlanta. Home of WRAS. After 5 years has my broadcast journalism degree and experience. Leslie Fram hire me to do weekend over nights at the original 99X, which I did for a year. Although she said I could stay as long as I wanted, reminded me that the turnover at the heritage modern rocker was low and suggested I go to a small market and work 6 days a week. I was hired at The Kro in the enormous metropolis of Daytona Beach, Fl. $18k a year, $17k after I took a $1k advance for moving expenses. That job got me on the air 6 days a week, got me well versed in production, appearances and really taught me a lot.

    A college degree, while not required, coupled with experience has worked well for me. There were student loans back then just as there are now and that is simply part of life. I feel it is a “coddling” mentality to suggest b/c of student loans someone simply can’t take a job that only pays $17k a year. Lots of people have and will continue to make it work. Sorta feeds in to the entitled mentality that I feel drapes over this generation.


    • Josh, as the states have pulled away funding of public colleges, the burden to pay for it all has moved to tuitions and fees — lots of fees.

      I’m not against a college degree. I have two and both of my sons do as well.

      What I’m saying is that most of us started in radio in high school and that’s where we really learned the business — by doing it.

      The college degree for me really meant something when I applied to become a professor at a university 40+ years later. First time in my life someone asked to see my transcripts.

      Thanks for stopping by to read the blog and add your experiences. -DT


  6. Gregg Simonsen

    Dick …

    I still recall trying to decide between a college and The Connecticut School of Broadcasting back in the ’70’s, when it was only in downtown Hartford. Happily I decided to do CSB while my classmates headed off for various colleges. When I think about it, it is not surprising (if not ironic) that by the time they were getting out of their four year programs (with four years of debt) I was, by then, thanks to my real experience, far enough along and in a position to hire them.

    Perhaps that’s a selling point by the four year programs: “do time here and your learnt-by-doing friends will be able to help you get work :-)”

    I enjoy your blog.

    Gregg Simonsen


  7. spotmagicsolis

    You should start your own radio school and get nab Rab to fund it.

    Liked by 1 person

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