There is no such thing as a ticket to a long-term, stable, happy job. I mean, I certainly wouldn't want to be a doctor in the United States -- you go through ten years of school to spend all your time juggling HMO paperwork, paying for malpractice insurance, and giving people advice to which they never listen.
Oh, and if you screw up majorly, you can kiss all that hard work goodbye. Sure, you're paid well, but that's not the sort of thing I'd want to deal with.
As far as some kid who tinkers being better than a fresh-out-of college grad, you're partially right, until you want him to do something. My general experience with the 'self-educated, don't need no stinkin' college' crowd is that, while they are very bright, they are also very arrogant, and not inclined to do dirty work -- they want to play with the shiny objects, not slog through miles of digital mud.
Before you tar me as jealous, understand that I *am* one of those tinkering kids -- started programming in grade school, have built my own primitive computer from components (transistors, resisters, diodes, plywood, protoboards), and generally love tinkering with technology. I also had the attitude when I graduated high school that college was mostly a waste of time, so I enrolled in community college just to keep my parents happy.
Worked full-time for about five years taking night classes, and you know what I came to realize?
All my 'talent' and 'intelligence' meant jack in the employment world; they don't care that I've got brains -- they want me to use them. I had to learn, in a hurry, that the majority of working in the computer industry consists of dealing with mundane crap.
College definitely helped with that, because there's a lot of mundane crap that you do as an undergrad.