Today Matters, Vantage Superintendent Blog



Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27, 2010

Two weeks into the 2010-11 school year students continue to make their decision to attend Vantage and learn a skilled trade to set them up for a lifetime of earning a living. Some students have returned to their associate school district, as is typical--they miss friends, traditional school atmosphere, or determine that Vantage doesn't match their educational plans right now. Several more have enrolled here in the past week or two, and will stay because they know they have found what they were looking for in school.

Last week's blog sparked a few conversations in our building, and I would like to continue the topic of the importance of choosing a skilled trade while in high school. I am reading the book "Shop Class as Soulcraft" by Michael Crawford. He emphasizes the importance of people understanding the values that working with the hands brings to one's lifestyle. Intrinsic satisfaction is predominant, but economic viability is a consideration also--much of the skilled trades, also classified as "non-service" jobs, cannot be done overseas. He cites his own example: He started his own business repairing motorcycles after deciding a managment position of a Washington D.C. "think tank" didn't generate personal satisfaction. People are not likely to ship their bike to Asia for repairs! And the repairs cannot be made by a computer here in the states.

I had the opportunity to hear him speak at Ohio's Association of Career-Technical Education conference in July, which inspired me to read his book. I'll paraphrase some remarks he made to the audience: "If you don't feel you have an effect on the world, you somehow don't feel responsible for it. . .The point is not the color of your collar, but livelihood." He went on to talk about the feelings of pride in a job well done, stepping back to look at a refurbished bike, after sometimes days of trial and error in problem solving its engine repair needs. He started out early in life as an electrician, and missed the satisfaction and pride that was present in the work he performed daily.

Immense skill and knowledge is associated with skilled trades. I marvel at what our welding students are able to accomplish at the end of their first and second years of training, and I see the passion for welding that our instructor, Brent Wright, brings to the training lab. His students see it too, and it makes a difference in their lives.

Skilled trades typically include welders, cabinet makers, bricklayers, plumbers, butchers, and carpenters to name a few. The list goes on. But a recent Manpower article declares that only one in 10 15-year olds today see themselves in a blue collar job at age 30. Many parents believe their children must seek a four-year college degree--but reality is that these jobs make up about 20 percent of the jobs in the workforce. This stigma contributes to the national skilled labor shortage, which is listed as the number one hiring challenge in 6 of the 10 biggest economies. Vantage continues to draw about 25 percent of the sophomores in our school district. This is consistent with all of Ohio's career centers, but collectively, it doesn't fill the pipeline for skilled labor where 80 percent of the jobs exist.

What can we do about it? At Vantage we must continue to link our staff to our area employers, to keep in touch with the skills they need in their business and industry areas. If we lose touch, we lose the edge on helping our district's youth and adults find employment. Industry has trained their own employees for years, but Vantage exists to give students entry-level skills to get initial employment. Advanced training and lifelong learning will continue to be essential for everyone's profession. At Vantage, our students create viable options for themselves through learning skilled trades.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 20, 2010

Today marks the end of our first week of school at Vantage. It has been a smooth start and we even got in a fire drill!

I ran across an article about the skilled labor shortage, which many people may find hard to believe, with so many people looking for work in the past few years. But I believe there is a skilled labor shortage, and CBS news has reported on it. Reporter Cynthia Bowers interviewed Linda Fillingham, a machine shop owner. Her family's shop could use 30-40 employees to help make metal parts that go into some of America's biggest machines.

Bowers reports that there is no shortage of work for this factory, but a shortage of skilled labor. The machine shop requires people with good math skills, who are also good with their hands, and are willing to work on a factory floor. The job isn't a glamourous one--it can be hot, hard work. And Fillingham has had to resort to paying people to learn on the job, at $13 to $18 per hour. The article notes that the average manufacturer is 50 years old--if there is a shortage now, there will be a much bigger one in 10-15 years as many in the workforce retire.

Bowers states that by 2012, the U.S. will see a shortage of 3 million skilled workers, not just in the manufacturing sector. The government says there are 227,000 open manufacturing jobs right now, which is more than double a year ago. Her article indicates that 183,000 of these jobs have been created since December, 2009.

Vantage Career Center has a very successful precision machining program, taught by Mr. Larry Ray. All but one or two of his 2010 graduated seniors are working now in machining. He goes out of his way to help the students find jobs near their local community, via many contacts with employers who look for Vantage-trained students. Typically we see strong enrollment in both the junior and senior program, however, this year it is a bit less. We have made similar remarks as in CBS' Cynthia Bowers' article--25 year-old Matthew McDannel, employed at Linda Fillingham's factory, and learning on the job says: "Maybe the work's too hard. Maybe it's too hot. Maybe people just think about it and they're just, like, "oh, I don't want to do that." Students--reconsider! Precision machining is a solid job prospect and a lucrative career move for males AND females. Our students with good skills and a good work ethic do find jobs.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

August 13, 2010

It's a new school year and the Vantage staff is ready for the building to be filled once again with our district's juniors and seniors. Several of these students arrive ready to learn and full of excitement about coming to Vantage Career Center.

One of the most frequent questions I get is "do you work much in the summer?" which is usually followed by: "What is there for you to do when the teachers and students are gone in the summer?"

Let me fill you in! The summer staff are busy checking supply and equipment orders, correcting errors in billing and shipping, answering questions from parents of prospective and enrolled students, and planning for the upcoming year's projects with teachers and clubs. There is much to keep up with regarding information from Ohio Department of Education, pending legislation to review, and Ohio Association of Career Technical Education information and activity. The administrative team works with me on updating the strategic plan, anticipating issues with schedules and enrollment, and teacher professional development and licensure issues. This summer was a heavy hiring year, with our last position being filled on August 10, so much time was spent screening applications and interviewing candidates. And, adult education classes continue through the summer, so there is constantly something refreshing happening at Vantage all year round.

Our normal work environment is transformed by the required summer maintenance work--hallways become the storage place for chairs and desks as carpets in classrooms are cleaned. My beaten path to the front office and restroom is sometimes barricaded by yellow caution tape to keep us from tramping on a freshly waxed floor or wet carpet. In short it's always interesting here in the summer, kind of like going to summer camp and enjoying the short time away from the routine we know throughout the year.

Much of the same duties continue throughout the school year, but without the full staff of teachers and our students filling the school building, the work day takes place in a much different atmosphere. I am glad to see everyone come back to fill the halls with chatter and news of their summer activities.