Career-technical education valuable to students

September 12, 2012 

I understand education has changed from the days I attended Baker High School in Columbus. And it is likely to continue changing, not necessarily for the better.

With that in mind, schools these days don’t offer enough career technical and agricultural education. That is a shame and is not in the best interest of students or the general public.

Consider that school systems offering career technical and agricultural education classes have a higher graduation rate than those that do not offer those electives.

Quoting from a study by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “Just about all of the Western European members of OECD have higher upper-secondary school graduation rates and higher proportions of 15- to 19-year-olds in school than in the U.S. and Canada.

“One of the possible reasons for higher school attendance rates in Northern Europe than in Canada, the U.S., Spain and Portugal may be the low share of students in career-tech programs in these four countries. There appears to be a positive association between the share of students in career-tech programs and graduation rates.”

Cornell University’s report titled “The Impacts of Career-Technical Education on High School Completion and Labor Market Success” points to several factors that probably lead to the higher success rates, including the differences in the individual student’s specific learning methodology, avoidance of additional academic studies and impact of use of motor skills.

Also, consider that classes in HVAC, automobile mechanics, plumbing, electrical systems or carpentry produce students with a marketable skill. Today’s economy reveals technical training as opposed to standard college preparation classes provide an economic advantage.

How?

Currently, many college graduates are not able to find a job that might use their education. College graduates often find themselves with many thousands of dollars in student loan debt, and without a job they can’t pay their student loans. Many return to live with their parents as they cannot support themselves.

Skilled workers are needed and often find jobs paying $30,000 to $40,000 annually and are not saddled with a heavy load of student loan debt.

Career-technical education is needed to meet the needs of students and society.

One thing is certain: one size does not fit all. Moreover, the “one size fits all” thinking is proving costly as children drop out of school and are unprepared for the challenges of life.

To employ a solid industrial arts program, I would suggest at least half a day of academic study and perhaps half a day of technical vocational education and hands-on experience.

It may be possible to offer students a co-op training experience where the student works with a company in their line of training. This provides “real world” work experience and eventually helps the company meet its operational obligations. It also gives the company an opportunity to evaluate the skills of a potential employee. Truly, a win-win situation for everyone.

The co-op method has been working in Europe for years. It can work here, but we have to demand it.

Maybe some students won’t decide to make professional use of the skills they acquire. It is so bad that they would have a knowledge and skill base to use throughout their personal life?

There is no doubt about it: career-technical education provides a win-win situation for everyone -- the school system, the student and the public. So let’s stop experimenting with our children’s lives and give them something that will benefit them throughout their lives.

If you are interested in this idea, contact the board of education and tell them you want a career-technical option to be available for your children.

The Houston County Career Academy is available to students from all five high schools and provides transportation. You might visit the school board’s website at www.hcbe.net for additional information regarding available programs.

The Houston County Career Academy has room for 750 students. Current enrollment is 528, and last year’s enrollment was 411. This indicates there is sufficient room for other students who may want to participate and take advantage of the opportunities available.

David Wittenberg resides in Kathleen. Contact him at dkw460@yahoo.com.

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