How many of us have actually learned something practical in schools? Most of school is spent regurgitating facts and finding strategies to maximize memorization. However, that has produced a workforce that is extremely under-prepared for practical employment. There are professions out there like construction and cyber-security that are hugely underserved due to lack of talent. Bringing tools back to schools will greatly benefit a population that is finding it harder to get jobs.
High quality career and technical education is by definition designed to give people skills that are applicable in the real world. Ridding schools of that has caused a detriment to the workforce. The onset of artificial intelligence will make it harder for people to do manual labor. And it will make it harder for people to find more mundane jobs. Hence, it is important to arm people with the skills they need to make it in the modern economy.
America is an anomaly in this regard. Nearly all industrialized countries which outperform the US on academic achievement, prepare their students for careers. This happens while they’re still in high school. Career technical education isn’t something that’s optional in most developed nations. On the contrary, it’s encouraged, and mandatory.
American students don’t have access to high quality career and technical education. Mix that with a bachelor’s degree or bust mentality and they’re left without a leg to stand on . So many jobs today demand experience and so many students are devoid of experience and burdened with debt. That’s a bad way to begin adult life. Hence, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is one of the best ways forward.
Benefits of Technical Education
Studies done in Arkansas by the Fordham Institute show students with CTE have a greater chance of employment. They’re more likely to have higher wages and to pursue higher education. And these students are more likely to graduate high school by 21% than those without CTE.
The best part is that the students in these programs don’t have to pay through the nose for this education. Most students in Arkansas took CTE at its most “egalitarian and scalable”. Most students took courses at their high school and some at regional technical centers. They didn’t have to enroll in some super expensive program that cost $1000 of dollars a month. And this seemed to work wonders.
Another study done for over 20 years included 9000 individuals between 12 and 18. The survey was representative of the American youth in the time period. It was found that the students that took more vocational course had higher wages. For every year of specialized vocational studies, they found an increase of 1.8-2.0% in wages. No discernible wage gains were shown for beginner level CTE courses however.
Vocational training courses and technical education should also be for both men and women. In a study done by Cornell University, it was shown that vocational training was largely leaving women out of the loop. Hence, fewer women were finding jobs because of a lack of technical education. Doing this would help more women find jobs and help decrease unemployment in key sectors like construction.
Technical education will not only help to do the physical tasks involved in construction, but the paperwork too. Often enough it’s tedious to go through the paperwork involved in construction. However, it’s still important to get through with it to plan out the entire project. Hence, getting training to complete workflow and to efficiently process it, can be very valuable.
Collaborating with the Industry
It’s not just schools upon which the burden falls, but the industries as well. If they want to employ more technically skilled employees, then they need to work with public and private schools. They need to introduce more programs that teach the skills they need in employees. This goes for industries that are falling behind in the talent race like IT and construction.
Construction specifically needs to invest in technical education programs due to the labor shortage in the industry. A report by Key Media and Research says 90% of US glazing contractors say unskilled labor is the reason for unemployment. The skilled labor shortage was ranked as the chief concern in 2018 among 10 categories. It’s simply the case that not enough people with practical experience are joining the labor force. Not just that, but people are quitting at a rate that the new workforce can’t match.
The construction sector had a 101,000 job openings increase from Dec 2017 to Jan 2018. A total of 250,000 jobs were available from January onwards. However, even though 342,000 jobs were filled, 332,000 people left. That is a rate that needs to be matched and then some if new positions are going to open up.
Moreover, focusing on technical education will help bridge the talent gap by focusing on employing more women. Women make up 47% of the workforce in the US, but just 9% in construction, their skills aren’t being utilized. The millions of construction jobs that go unfilled each year can benefit from a more diverse workforce.
Technical education is something that indubitably helps people gain better skills and thus better jobs and thus better wages. It needs to be encouraged more in high schools and colleges as well. It’s time we start bringing tools back to schools.