The economic future of America can greatly benefit from the reintroduction of vocational training in schools. And while this idea may not blend particularly well with the college-oriented culture popularized in our country over the last six decades or so, it certainly begins to make more and more sense as statistics keep revealing the true consequences of the ability tracking system in schools.
Statistics show that 70% of high school students will not pursue a four-year college education. Out of the 30% of high school students who will go to college, about half will graduate. This means that approximately 15% of high school students will end up with a college degree in their hands. Statistics also show that over half of recent college graduates will be underemployed or unemployed. And all of this is happening while states are continuously cutting vocational programs in schools.
We’re also facing another trend in the manufacturing industry where graduate students are being employed in positions for which they wouldn’t normally need a college degree, having to learn new skills through training, apprenticeships, or even by attending additional vocational training. This whole process is one more cause for money leakage in the manufacturing sector, and it could be avoided if the new employee had already been trained for the job in school.
As time passes, the lack of vocational training in school produces a bigger and bigger skill shortage in manufacturing. And that same skill shortage is one of the reasons offshoring production has become such a usual course of action for plants and factories in the US.
At the same time, manufacturing in America is going through yet another shift, and this time things appear to be looking brighter. Modern manufacturing technologies are opening the door towards industry growth, growth that in its turn opens the door to more jobs, better payed jobs for the highly skilled. With the modernization and growth of the manufacturing sector, it is now the time maybe even more than before to create vocational programs, and introduce them in high schools and community colleges.
We need good and highly skilled craft workers to replace the generation of highly skilled craft workers that are now retiring. We also need highly skilled workers for the new and often times challenging positions that are opening up in the manufacturing field. In order for this to happen, we also need to change the mentality around working in the manufacturing sector, and this means changing the college-for-all culture. Different people have different sets of innate skills, not to mention the different ways in which we’re programmed to learn and function in an academic setting. Giving students with different inclinations and different skills the opportunity to choose different paths is a golden ticket to improving our economic future by populating the manufacturing sector with experts that are ready to work their hands and minds in our US-based factories, increasing both local production, industry wages, and our country’s economy.
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