Writing Contest: First Place

College, Human Capital, and Air Cargo

Joon Seok Yoo, Western Reserve Academy, Hudson, OH (Teacher: Mr. Diccon Ong)

  1. The end of high school is just a new beginning, as everybody knows. However, not many students are clearly aware of what they want to do afterwards. Four-year colleges, the armed services, and even full-time jobs are available options for young high school graduates. Today, roughly 63 percent of students choose to go immediately to college after graduation. (USA Today report, 2002) My post-graduation plans include much more than going to college. For me, college is not only a place of education, but also a place to start an apprenticeship in the airline cargo industry, where human capital is a crucial element.

The air cargo industry requires agents who work as middlemen between shippers and airlines. An agent in the business is a pure embodiment of human capital: What you invest in yourself influences your performance directly. The job itself is hugely attractive to a person like me who has a strong interest in languages. I speak Korean, English, and Japanese, and I am planning to study other languages in college. In this job, learning is constant: Wherever a new market is developed, an agent has to learn the language of the destination country to expand business and to make frequent trips. My uncle, who runs an airline cargo agency, makes at least three business trips per month to foreign countries. I consider myself well suited to this field since I have traveled to nine different countries around the world and have no problem staying in foreign lands. In the growing air cargo market, which generates more than $52 billion in revenues, rewards for human resources such as air cargo agents are immense. (www.boeing.com)

Investing in oneself to cultivate productive human capital has both costs and benefits. The average tuition for a four-year college is $23,712, so four years of college expenses equal roughly $100,000, (www.collegeboard.com) However, say that I join the workforce and work four years that I would have otherwise spent on college education. I earn an average of $37,632 per year with my high school diploma, and those four years of work get me roughly $150,000 of income. (Gwartney, 552). Considering that $150,000 is my lost income for choosing college over work, my total cost for finishing the entire college education will amount to $250,000, including tuition. With just a bachelor’s degree and an average annual wage of $70,253, a college graduate can cover that expense in four years with minimum spending. (Gwartney, 552) The apprentice training for an air cargo agent can be finished during college. If it is done part time, it is possible to finish within a year, according to my uncle who is an agent. As a result, I save one year of job training after college. It takes three extra years of required courses for a first-time associate to become a qualified professional agent who travels around to develop new markets and service products. An agent’s commission, which is not listed in any air cargo company websites, is, for example, about five percent of the selling rate of the cargo and 40 cents per kilogram for African destinations. A first-year agent would typically make shipping contracts of 10 tons per month, generating $4,000 in commissions. My uncle, who is a veteran agent, now ships almost 50 tons per month, generating $200,000 to $300,000 of gross revenue with about $20,000 of sales profit. Since the business depends heavily on human capital, agents’ productivity and income can always increase with more self-investment. An early training during college can make all this happen a little sooner.

Going to college incurs losses as well as gains. However, it is possible to both maximize the benefits of a college education and minimize the cost of choosing college over a job— by doing an apprenticeship in a field of business where you continuously invest in human capital.

Work Cited