If you expect to make serious money, you're eventually going to need educated workers. All the industries, from the lowly lumber mill to the huge rum distillery, require high-school graduates; without them, your economy will be limited to farming, mining, fishing and tourism. Almost all the other important buildings in the game, such as the Immigration Office, Diplomatic Ministry, Clinic, Hospital, Powerplant, Armory, Marketplace and even your Palace, also require educated workers. Education Level also equates with Social Class, so while it may seem that some jobs really don't require education - they do carry social prestige.
There are four ways to get educated workers on your island. First of all, unless you're playing a predesigned scenario that specifically leaves them out, every game usually starts with a few educated workers proportioned between the two levels. This is enough to partially staff your palace, plus a few early buildings like a marketplace, etc. But after those workers are allocated, you will need more.
Workers from Offshore
The most reliable way to bring educated workers to your island is through an outside employment agency. A building that requires educated workers will indicate that with a small graduates' cap in the corner of the building's employees window. This cap is blue for buildings requiring HS educated workers, green for college. Clicking the cap icon brings up a dossier explaining the requirement, and giving you an offer to hire an appropriately trained worker from overseas. If you say yes, a boat icon appears next to the graduates' cap, reminding you that at least one foreign worker is scheduled to arrive on the next freighter to dock at your port. You can hire more than one at once, if you have the money; they will all arrive on the next freighter, even if that freighter is already in your harbor and maneuvering to dock. This ties the recruited worker to the already constructed building. If the building is destroyed before the worker arrives, when s\he does arrive the game will crash.
If you wish to hire an educated worker, but you don't want your game to crash because a hurricane may blow down the building before the worker arrives, here is the alternative. Go to the construction central panel, then select (click on) a building which requires educated workers. As usual, a picture of the building appears in the "Circle Window" at the lower right. Now look closely at that picture. At about between 4 and 5 O'clock near the edge, the green or blue "Graduate Cap" appears. This cap acts just as its counter-part in the employee area of a building display acts - maybe better. Put the cursor on it and the hover line information identifies the gender (the G-Cap color identifies the education level) and tells how many are already among the current Tropican citizens. So you have to select among buildings to get the level and gender you desire. Click on the cap and procede as with a constructed building, but monitor the arriving recruits to insure they take an appropriate job.
The cost of hiring overseas workers goes up with each one you hire. Your first HS grad costs $500, and each subsequent one costs $100 more. College workers cost $1,500 for the first, and get $300 more expensive for each one afterward. Expensive as this is -- hiring six college-educated workers from overseas would more than pay for the cost of building a college -- this method does have its advantages, at least early on. First, educated workers hired from overseas come not just with an education, but also a basic skill level in their intended job; right off the bat they'll do a better job than a Tropican straight out of school.
Immigration Office set to
Skilled Workers Welcome
A more cost-effective way of getting educated workers is through the Immigration Office. This building costs $2,500, can be built fairly quickly, and can be partly staffed by a single HS educated woman -- perhaps one of your initial ones. If you set the Immigration Office to "Skilled Workers Welcome," with just one staffer with no skill as a Bureaucrat, 10 percent of your immigrants have HS educations, four percent have college. Though the "tooltip" hint at the bottom of the screen says that a full staff of average skill can raise those numbers to 30% and 10% (which is pretty darn good), it actually reaches those numbers with two bureaucrats of middling-low skill. At high levels of skill, two bureaucrats can make sure that more than half of your immigrants have an education.
Your Own Tropican
When you're ready to staff several industries and other jobs requiring an education, you can't rely on immigration, though; it's just not fast enough or reliable enough. That's when you build schools. You should probably be ready to build the first one when your population first reaches 100.
In a chicken-and-egg thing, you need educated people to teach. If you haven't built an immigration office yet, you'll probably have to hire them from overseas. But those should be the last overseas recruits you have to hire. Get two to start with; each teacher can teach two students, and at this early stage, it's unlikely you'll have more than four prospective students.
At this early stage, you'll want to X out three of the teacher positions. Reason: Tropicans choose jobs not just based on pay, but also on their political leanings and the job's proximity to their current house. Tropicans who tend to go for an education often favor the Intellectual (or Religious or Militarist) faction already (depending on the school's setting), and if they don't have a wage-earning spouse at home to pay for their housing or you haven't passed the Social Security Edict, they probably moved into a shack near the school shortly after enrolling. These factors combine to make teaching at the HS a very attractive job for new female graduates, so if you don't X those positions out, you'll end up with six teachers before you get a single shopkeeper or bureaucrat out of it. After you have all the schools you need built, do not feel obligated to fill all the positions in all of them; fit the number of employees to the number of graduates you actually need.
Building and staffing a school is the easy part. For many people, the hard part is getting any Tropicans to attend. To a Tropican, being a student is just another job, and an unpaid or poorly paid one at that. So unless there are other factors involved -- particularly, unemployment at the uneducated level, and jobs available for educated Tropicans -- most won't quit the paying job they have to go to school. If you have a staffed school and nobody is attending, you probably have no jobs available at the educated level.
Though you'll probably want to crank out graduates as fast as possible, there are other settings for your high school which serve special circumstances and may be worth looking at. General Education, the missnamed default, works the fastest at teaching your students; with a couple of teachers providing an educational quality of 50-60, a student of average intelligence will graduate in a year, more or less - and will be inclined to support the Intellectual and\or Environmentalist factions
. More teachers, more skilled teachers and more intelligent students lower this study time. The other settings, Parochial Education and Military Education, increase the time it takes for a student to graduate by about 30 percent, or four months. Parochial Education indoctrinates the students toward the Religious faction, which is good if you're having a hard time staffing your churches and cathedrals; Military Education does the same for the militarist faction, which is just the thing if you've got lots of Guard Posts to staff. Note that neither form of special education is much use to female students; they'll get the same boost to their Religious or Military faction support, but since they can't take jobs in either field, it's kind of pointless. But perhaps 'cranking out' Intellectual faction supporters is just as pointless for your plans while the need for Priests and Soldiers is critical. The slow down of 30% can be completely offset by enacting the Literacy Program Edict which speeds up all
learning, not just that in schools.
A college works the same as a high school, except that it costs more to build, maintain and staff, and instead of female HS grads, you need male college grads to teach there. The other difference is that a college employs eight instructors who can teach 16 students, instead of a high school's six and 12. But there are similarities, including the time it takes a typical student to graduate. Colleges can be set for General, Parochial or Military Education, also like the high school. And like a high school, you'll probably never need more than one. You'll probably want to build it just before you plan to start building things that require electricity. That's because many of these buildings (not to mention the Power Plant to run them) require college-educated workers, and growing your own is in the long run cheaper than buying.