By Rose Klein
Greene Publishing, Inc.
In today’s changing job market, education is scrambling to keep up and stay current in an attempt to have graduating seniors, college and career ready. As our own worlds become more global and fast-paced, and our need for technological knowledge grows, our job market changes. Research on the U.S.’s labor force shows that 70 percent of our labor force, the vast majority, does not hold a Bachelor’s degree and only one in four are currently working in high-skill jobs requiring one. The majority of workers are in middle-skill or low-skill jobs, typically requiring only some or no college.
Educational studies show that of the 30 million new and replacement (modified) jobs, that will be created between now and 2018, 63 percent will require a high school diploma and some college, but less than a four-year college degree. In the past, the nation has emphasized the importance of obtaining a college degree, and for some jobs that still holds true, but these recent studies show that it is equally important to develop educational programs that will provide alternative career paths to the statistical one-half of students choosing not to go to a university.
Community and Career Colleges offer a solution to some of the students who decide against the university path. These colleges are reasonably priced and typically have lower entrance standards and provide students with technical career skills that are helpful in acquiring middle-level and low-level jobs. However, just like universities, degrees are not always easy to earn for all students, due to the necessity of work while attending school, the expense of an associate degree or other life issues that may occur while attending. For these students and others who will never attend college of any kind, it’s obvious there needs to be a program in place where students can do more than just earn a high school diploma.
High Schools have turned to vocational education to prepare students for the work force today by offering career readiness certificates and industry-specific certifications that are more highly valued by employers than a high school diploma alone. These vocational programs may also help to motivate at-risk students, improve school attendance and reduce drop out rates.
Sam Stalnaker, the Madison County School District Coordinator for Career, Technical and Alternative Education (CTE), said education choices geared towards a student’s future is more blended now than it was in the past. Students used to choose from one of two paths, a college track or a vocational track, but students today can earn certifications that will give them a head start in their professional careers by taking classes offered at not only the high school, but by having dual enrollment in other schools. Today’s student can actually be job ready just after their high school graduation.
Madison County High School (MCHS) offers CTE to students, allowing them to earn industry certifications that are valuable in today’s job market. The school accomplishes this by partnering with local technical and community colleges as well as employing teachers who are certified in their chosen field. CTE programs offered at MCHS, along with some of their career choices and/or certifications are:
Criminal Justice – Gwen Hubbard and Ramona Guess (Police Officer, Victims Advocate, Crime Scene Analyst, Forensics, Armed Security Guard)
Allied Health – Monica Dyke (Nursing, Therapy and Rehabilitation, Athletic Training, Dietetics, Health Information Management, Dentistry)
Agriculture – Ed Sapp (Crop Production, Food Manufacturing, Animal Promotion, Agriculture Sales and Marketing, Agricultural Finance)
Business Technology – Ramona Guess and Gwen Hubbard (Web Design, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Office Specialist, Digital Design)
Culinary – Robin Smith (Teacher’s Assistant, Day Care Worker, Cook/Chef, Food Service Manager, Pre-K Teacher, Restaurateur)
Industrial Biotechnology – Paige Thomas (Lab Technician, Research, Geneticist, Agricultural Biotechnology, Plant Biologist)
After graduation, these students can continue at the college they had dual enrollment and/or gain employment.
Vocational education not only prepares some high school graduates for jobs in our global and ever changing job market, but it also reduces social and economic problems in our local community as well as in our neighborhood and our own homes.