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. http://www.manpower.com/research/.cfm. 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.