Perhaps we shouldn’t be pressing as many high school students to go straight for the university, because so many high-tech manufacturing jobs are sitting empty. Community colleges are being transformed into the training walk into these jobs, and much more students need to be heading straight there. That’s the message Kelsey Sheehy is hearing, as reported in US News & World Report.
Two years back, President Obama was talking about this need, and more recently, the head of the National Association of Manufacturers testified to Congress about the deep requirement for change to manufacturing jobs. Jay Timmons estimates that as many as 600,000 skilled labor positions are unfilled round the nation. Currently of deep recession, that’s keenly important information for young people.
We’re already seeing a trend in which young (or not so young) adults return to school for further job training, even if they already have four-year university degrees. Because they pick up certificates or two-year degrees, they are carrying student debt from their first journey through higher education. Now editorialists, business leaders and also the mayor of Chicago are suggesting that top school students should skip the debt-heavy traditional education and just get a two-year degree inside a STEM field. STEM means science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It offers electrical engineering, computer tech support, medical equipment, and industrial skills like specialized welding.
Timmons also suggested, in his House testimony, that manufacturers should create their own system of certification tests. He expressed support for that new America Works Act, which would help fund these manufacturing skills tests, amongst other things.
The city of Chicago is moving to create targeted programs for that industries located in its region. The programs will start in vocational tracks in high school. The difference is the fact that they’ll be more targeted than usual by teaming up with a company that may hire graduates:
Five high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district, including Corliss High School, Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Lake View Senior high school, began offering career-training tracks in September. The vocational programs are aligned with the needs of area businesses for example IBM, Motorola, and Verizon, which each partnered having a school to create alternative curricula, based on the CPS Website.
Chicago plans to coordinate extremely high school courses using the City Colleges of Chicago so that students can function toward two-year technical degrees at the same time.
US News highlights that many individuals have the mistaken concept that shorter degrees train just for low-paying work. Not so:
Promoting two-year tech pathways can also open students’ eyes to lucrative careers in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math). Electrical engineering technicians earn an average salary of about $56,000 with an associate degree, and the median purchase nuclear technicians is roughly $68,000 with an associate’s, based on the U.S. Bls.
When these jobs pay better than the median salary for a region, why, asks Timmons, do students still think of them as lower options than university? The wall between education and work is continuing to grow too high, and students simply do not learn about these low-investment, high-paying tracks. The NAM hopes that skills certification will begin to bring down this wall and make education more practical.