On my way to our Live Oaks campus in Milford today, a radio story discussed the plight of a 2008 college graduate working at a minimum wage job because she couldn’t find work in her chosen career field over the past six years.
At Live Oaks, I attended a panel discussion about career training and manufacturing, featuring Senator Rob Portman along with manufacturing company representatives, teachers, students, and other educational leaders.
One business manager talked about hiring a recent Great Oaks high school graduate into a $50,000/ year job operating a sophisticated piece of equipment worth half a million dollars.
Students talked about beginning their career even before graduation; manufacturing professionals talked about hiring every skilled person they can find, and all of the panelists lamented that some parents, students, and community members still don’t understand the opportunities available through a high school career-technical education. “How do we get kids interested?” asked one business owner who said his staff is growing by 10-15 percent per year.
The fact is that the world has changed. Good careers are available in many fields without a college degree – but they require the right training, whether it’s in a career-technical high school, an adult career education program, or in another educational setting.
Career training and college aren’t mutually exclusive. As Mary Stearns of UC-Clermont said, “It’s not a career or college. It’s a career and college.” Ohio recognizes that; career-technical high school students can earn college credit for both their career program and some academic classes, and adult students can earn 30 hours of college credit while being certified for a career through the Ohio Transfer to Degree Guarantee.
The career training helps young adults begin meaningful work right away; the additional education helps them advance as they earn a family-sustaining wage.
Senator Portman is preparing bipartisan legislation called The Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce Act to ensure that the needs of the 21st century workforce align with the quality programs available at career-technical schools like Great Oaks.
His visit focused attention for a few hours on the value of career-technical education.
It’s our job to keep spreading the word – because that will lead to success for many more young adults in our region.
Harry Snyder is the President/CEO of Great Oaks.