The reason I write my blog is to stimulate discussion about what radio needs to be doing to not just survive, but thrive in the 21st Century. If things weren’t hot enough after I published last week’s blog article, “No College Degree Required,” they got even hotter after Fred Jacobs expanded on my thoughts in his Monday blog article titled: “Want To Succeed In Radio? Get That Degree.” Let’s hope all the discussion that occurred on both of our blogs and on social media leads our industry’s leaders to make some meaningful changes.
How I Got Into Professional Radio
Just about everyone my age (69) who got into the radio business, did so while still in high school. For me, the entrance door was via Junior Achievement. JA was just beginning to experiment with the idea of having service companies. The Junior Achievement program was created to help high school students understand the principles of running a business by selling stock ($1), forming a company, deciding on what product to make, making that product, selling that product and then liquidating the company and returning (hopefully) a monetary value greater than the $1 invested by the stockholders; all during a single school year.
One of the local radio stations in my town, came to my 10th grade high school assembly and made a presentation about forming a JA Radio Company. I set my sights on being in it, and made the cut. One of my best friends also made the cut and has retired from a very successful radio and voice-over career of 50 years.
My College Years
I was the GM of my college’s carrier current AM radio station and worked to secure an educational FM license before graduating. WJJW remains on the air to this day at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
I was a commuter student with no student loans, but back in 1970, such a thing was more the norm than the exception. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 1970-71 academic year, the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was $394. By the 2020-21 academic year, that amount jumped to $10,560, an increase of 2,580%.
How Other Industries Treat College & Their Best Employees
In other industries, it’s not uncommon for companies to actually pay for their best employees to earn their college degrees in order to further their advancement. I know a person that learned his computer skills in the military and works for a military contractor in DC. He’s been working with the highest level of military leaders at the Pentagon as well as with members of Congress. After 17 years of constant achievement, his company is paying for him to complete his college degree. He currently maintains a 4.0 GPA.
His degree, ironically, won’t even be in the area that he works in, but in an area that gives him passion outside of his job.
The point of my article wasn’t to dis getting a college education, but for our radio industry to begin recruitment and training at the high school level. Radio needs to be a way for talented individuals to be exposed to what a wonderful business radio is, and have a way to enter without being screened out by a computer algorithm looking for a college degree. (You can’t see talent on a spreadsheet.)
Clear Channel used to run a wonderful training program called Clear Channel University. It succumbed to one of the many rounds of budget cuts.
The RAB’s Radio Talent Institute is an excellent program and my point was it should be run in the high schools across America.
Companies interested in retaining and growing their best employees should be making higher education opportunities a company benefit, what I like to call “just-in-time-learning.”
When the NAB offered a Sales Management Program through the Wharton School, I paid my own way and went. I already had an undergraduate degree from a four year college and a master’s degree from a university, but I never had the specific training that this program offered for the job I had been promoted into.
The owner of the radio stations I worked for at the time, provided a lot of training for its people. We attended the annual Managing Sales Conference hosted by the RAB. I earned my CRMC, Diamond CRMC and CDMC from the Radio Advertising Bureau.
I always told my college students that their degree wasn’t the end of their learning, but the launchpad to a life of learning. Every year of your life, learn something new, experience something new, grow your knowledge in life.
Think about what you can add to your resume that will make you a more valuable person to your company, your family and yourself.
Not Every Job Is For Every Person, Regardless of Their College Degrees
A comment made by Tom Langmyer said it best; that at the core, it all comes down to the person. Having a PhD doesn’t equal a great air personality or salesperson.
The hardest part is expecting the same result when sending 10 people to university for Broadcasting/Media. So much is about the person.
Success on the content and sales side relies so much more upon the candidate’s personality, makeup, drive, ambition, chemistry, life experiences, ability to engage and activate people, etc.
Those are attributes which additional education can enhance, but if one does’t have those natural abilities, anything including a PhD in broadcast media, is worthless.-Tom Langmyer
My success as a GM in hiring was to first hire for attitude and then train the person for the job that needs to be done.
When the raw talent at affordable prices is sitting in high school classrooms today, why is the radio industry waiting till college to begin recruiting?