I’ve been in the training game a long time. 15 years rafting plus over 5 years training emergency response for the offshore oil & gas industry. I also had an English consultancy business in Italy for 10 years. That involved me evaluating a business’s staff for aptitude to learn English and then designing and implementing a program to get the required results.
All of the training that I have been involved with has been results-based. No result, no party. A poor result in the rafting game is a very bad place to be. With offshore oil & gas training I may never know. You train someone to get out of a helicopter upside down and under water and then they walk out the door. If the helicopter that they’re riding in 3 years later falls into the drink I’ll most likely never know if the training that I gave the student helped them to survive that situation.
Likewise if I do my job properly training someone how to use a portable gas reader then the fact that they don’t blow up their facility means that I may have had a positive effect. But the lack of an explosion means that I’ll never know for sure.
But there is other training and teaching where not only can you examine the success of the students after they walk out the door, but as an outside observer you can also gain a measure of understanding of the training quality based on the training organization’s own forays into the field that they’re supposedly expert in.
Harvard university for example educates people in economics and investment. It turns out that Harvard university also has its own investment portfolio. So if I were a student and I was trying to ascertain whether or not to invest in my own education with Harvard as a training provider, the fact that I can examine Harvard’s own investment track record is a big plus when determining if they could be a good fit for me.
Likewise if I were an employer looking to hire the best and hungriest young trained investment minds out there, a cursory glance at Harvard’s own investment record might sway me either way. After all, what they’re teaching must also reflect what they’re doing in real life.
Harvard made many mistakes over the last decade, according to Thomas Gilbert, a finance professor at the University of Washington, but almost all of them boiled down to a single miscalculation: the belief that its top money managers—who were paid $242 million from 2010 through 2014—were smarter than everyone else and could handle the risks almost all other endowments avoided. “They became loose cannons,” Gilbert says. “When you’re managing donor money, it’s appalling.”
This must be one of those examples in the training world which we would classify under the heading, ‘do as we say, not as we do.’
But perhaps no bet damaged Harvard more than its foray into natural resources. The university invested in central California vineyards, Central American teak forests, a cotton farm in Australia, a eucalyptus plantation in Uruguay, and timberland in Romania.
A eucalyptus plantation? They must have been high, or under the impression that they were koalas.
It’s just one more small step on the journey towards the higher education bubble finally going pop.