Career and technical education crucial to meeting students’, society’s needs
Kentucky School Advocate
By Ronnie Holmes
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to prepare kids for success,” he said.
The G.I. Bill of 1944 and the baby boom that followed made earning a four-year college degree far more common than ever before. That trend escalated to the point that people eventually saw it as the only ticket to living the American Dream … until now.
Reasons for a long, steady downturn in college enrollment range from too many colleges to too many diploma mills, unmarketable degrees and graduates. The biggest single reason is too little return on too great an investment.
Meanwhile, thousands of much-needed, good-paying jobs go unfilled, as baby boomers, who were born in droves, retire in droves, particularly in the construction trades.
Yet, career and technical education in Kentucky high schools, its area technology centers and community colleges is more available than ever before.
Why the disconnect?
Maybe it’s the stigma of working with your hands, when our entire society for decades has overemphasized using only your mind to work.
Realistically, people who work with their hands also use their heads. My profession is construction work. I know from experience that every day it involves thinking as well as doing.
One remedy is spreading the word about the tremendous need for young people to work in the entire range of trades. Clearly, public education and government need to work to reverse the incorrect, conventional thinking that a college education is the one and only path to success.
We also need to help young people see specifically how they can pursue career and technical education to qualify for those jobs.
Many millennials now bypass the four-year college degree, but most don’t know the truth about career and technical education – nearly all such trades pay quite well.
I’m happy to say that I have seen several innovative efforts to attract more young people to the trades and trade schools.
Mike Miller, principal of the Mayfield-Graves County Area Technology Center (ATC), and his welding department sponsored an event that offered high school girls the opportunity to learn about welding. Those attending had a great time and learned about career possibilities most never had considered.
Chris Nelson, executive director of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of western Kentucky, joined forces on a special project with Danny Claiborne, chairman of Murray State University’s Department of Construction Science, Engineering and Technology. Collaborating with West Kentucky Community and Technical College and numerous employers and trade unions, they present a construction career fair each September. Western Kentucky area technology centers send teachers and their classes to explore what’s available and talk directly with the people now working in those careers.
AGC also has hired retired Mayfield-Graves County ATC electrical instructor Joel Crider as workforce coordinator to strengthen connections between AGC and schools in far western Kentucky with business and industry for the good of all.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Wayne Lewis and state school board chairman Hal Heiner recently visited Graves County Schools, including the local ATC where Heiner noted that the district’s approach to CTE could be a model for other districts in the state
Lewis said changes in the economy mean educators have to consider changes in public education.