picture symbolizing job training
College Education Required

Specialty Training Required

Limited Training Required

  • Accountant
  • Architect
  • Civil Engineer
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Doctor
  • Lawyer
  • Management Analyst
  • Operations Manager
  • Pharmacist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Scientist
  • Teacher
  • Weather Forecaster
  • Automotive Mechanic
  • Building Contractor
  • Carpenter
  • Chef
  • Commercial Pilot
  • Computer Programmer
  • Crane Operator
  • Electrician
  • Farmer
  • Fire Fighter
  • Mason
  • Nurse's Aide
  • Plumber
  • Policeman
  • Truck Driver
  • Welder
  • Apprentice to a Trade
  • Commercial Fisherman
  • Dishwasher
  • Farm Laborer
  • Fast Food Employee
  • Material Handler
  • Janitor
  • Roustabout
  • Waiter
Today’s Status

Vocational training in our public schools has not kept pace with the demand for specialty training. Here are some reasons:

  • New technology has made some traditional high school vocational programs obsolete. (E.g., do schools offer training incorporating the latest tools and techniques being used on actual job sites?)
  • Educational funding is always scarce.
  • Guidance Counselors are prone to emphasize attending college over vocational professions.

As a result of vocational training de-emphasis, some high school vocational programs have been scrapped while others may no longer offer relevant training for today’s job environment.

In some schools, less than half of their graduating class will attend college and about half of those will not complete college. What happens to the students who do not attend college or attend but do not get a college degree? This can be as high as 75% of a graduating class!

Another factor to consider is the increase in minimum wage - many small businesses cannot afford to hire untrained workers. As a result, the number of unemployed youth in America is very high.

On the positive side, some vocational training is available in community colleges and specialty schools. Plus, there is on-the-job training offered by companies and individuals. This is not enough; we need to increase the number of young people being offered specialty training and getting jobs.

One Practical Solution

Since money is a primary driver, we should combine our efforts. Government, public schools, businesses, and individuals could work together to help overcome this shortfall in skilled workers. For example:

  • Companies know their future labor requirements. Curriculum developers should meet with industry to determine what job skills would be relevant and establish training programs and standards for school and the work sites. Where appropriate, trade organizations should be asked to validate and endorse the training programs.
  • The training programs would be divided between common subjects taught in school and job site curriculum. The advantage is schools would no longer need to buy, maintain, and operate workshops. Companies and individuals (carpenters, brick masons, electricians, plumbers, automotive repair shops, etc.) would provide the latest tools and expertise at their work sites.
  • Each school district would select from a menu of approved training programs. Their choices should be based on which training programs meet the needs of their region.
  • Publicize the vocational (specialty) training programs. Raise the level of community interest. This includes parents, students, and businesses.
  • Make the program competitive. Create an environment where students compete for job training programs and companies compete for trainees. Win/win. On a related subject, some students will lack motivation to participate. If they can’t be motivated, then they will be the losers. That is no reason to abandon this program if some young people refuse to participate. Further, because peer pressure is so strong; perhaps more will be motivated to participate when they see their classmates being successful.
  • The Federal Government provides money for various work programs. E.g., Summer Youth Employment Program. Congress should lift the normal duration of this funding source and permit schools to use the money throughout the year. This money could supplement the pay for students attending year-round on-the-job training. (Participating companies would be required to pay a percentage of the student’s wages.) Funding available in this program would be leveraged, thereby increasing the total number of students being employed and trained.
  • After graduation, the students would have earned a certification in a trade and better able to find a full-time job.
A similar training program using approved curriculum and standards could be established for displaced workers and other unemployed adults.

‘Doing more with less’ is admirable and it is a good slogan. However, I believe ‘doing more with the same’ is more achievable and will accomplish our goal of getting a better trained workforce. By establishing a cooperative atmosphere and adopting a willingness to change, we (government, businesses, educators, and individuals) can increase the number of trained workers for our future needs.

Joe R. East, Jr.

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Updated 06/25/2017
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