Career and Technology Education – An Alternative to College

The nexus between education and employment has never been more complex.

Some political leaders and candidates say a college education is so vital in today’s job market that taxpayers should provide it as a free entitlement.  Most high schools view anything short of college admission as a failure.  But many college graduates, despite racking up huge student loan debt, have such a hard time finding jobs that they end up tending bar or waiting tables.  Meanwhile employers contend that they can’t find employees with adequate skills for entry level or more advanced positions.  And foreign students dominate advanced-study courses at our universities, casting doubt on the rigor and subject matter of our traditional high school classes.

Clearly something is out of sync in the school-to-career formula.

School choice is widely embraced as the primary vehicle for improved educational outcomes.  There is no longer any question that schools who compete for students and have the freedom to try innovative methods deliver better results than traditional schools.  Still, many “choice” schools offer the same college-prep curriculum, but in a different building or perhaps using alternative methods.

Recognizing the disconnect between education and jobs, some states and school districts are now focusing more on Career and Technology Education (CTE).

While my home state of South Carolina does not specifically address school choice on a state-wide basis, the department of education’s Career and Technology Education division offers significant profile-of-the-south-carolina-graduatesupport to designated “choice” districts.  Many of these districts now offer alternative education options to their resident families, including CTE centers.  Greenville County Public Schools, for example, enrolls 15% of its students in non-traditional “choice” schools.

The South Carolina Dept. of Education provides standards-based curricular and instructor support for both traditional and specialized schools.  The department hosts training workshops and seminars, administers standards, and tracks performance through a highly organized program funded by a combination of federal grants and state education money.

Suggested and supported course offerings are organized into “career clusters”, and the list is impressive:

  • Agriculture
  • Architecture and Construction
  • Arts, AV Technology and Communications
  • Business Management and Administration
  • Education and Training Careers
  • Finance
  • Health Sciences
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology
  • Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
  • Transportation, Distribution and Logistics

The Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York, SC shares a campus with a traditional high school, and provides career and technology education for students in the county who apply and are accepted.  Ron Roveri, Director of Career and Technology Education for the state, headed the Tech Center for fourteen years prior to accepting the top state CTE post.

I asked Roveri if South Carolina held the same strong bias toward college prep that I find in other states and districts.  “Not at all,” he replied.  Our program is designed to work seamlessly for students who are preparing to enter college, the work force, or the military after high school.”

As college graduates find it increasingly difficult to land good jobs, and employers struggle to find good employees, the pressure is on our school systems to make students career-ready – even those who don’t attend or graduate from college.  Career and Technology Education choice schools are a solution whose time has come.

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right SideEvery morning about this time
She get me out of my bed
A-crying get a job.
After breakfast, every day,
She throws the want ads right my way
And never fails to say,
Get a job!

Get A Job – the Silhouettes


The End of Football – and Hillary?

nfl-collisionI played high school football in small-town Montana.  I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I loved the sport.  To this day I and my family, like most Americans, spend a good chunk of our time and money following the monsters of the midway.  Football has become more than a pastime – it is a juggernaut industry, and until recently its meteoric growth in popularity seemed limitless.  But I digress . . .

It was a kickoff play, and I was the “contain” guy on the end.  My job was to make sure the kick returner did not get outside of me and have a clear path down the sideline.  He caught the kick near the sideline, on my side of the field.   I was barreling down the sideline, full speed, and the returner motored straight toward me.  Yep, it was a full-speed, head-on train wreck.

We were both seeing stars and, with assistance, wobbled off to our respective benches.  But the cobwebs cleared in a few minutes, and we were soon right back in the game.

And that is what will be the end of football.

A four-year study was recently completed on the effects of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Scientists studied the brains of 85 deceased athletes and soldiers, mostly football players.  They discovered that serious brain damage was not always the result of one or more major concussions; it is just as likely caused by repeated, smaller jolts to the noggin.

While professional boxers were commonly “punch drunk” after their careers, most of us were not aware of the devastating effects of CTE until we saw Muhammad Ali reduced to a mumbling zombie at a relatively young age.  There were sad stories in professional football, like Mike Webster, who suffered, among other injuries, amnesia, dementia, and depression from his later football years until his death at the age of 50.

As players get bigger and faster (largely thanks to steroids) the hits become progressively more devastating.   Many successful players have had their careers shortened by concussions, and the inevitable lawsuit barrage has begun.  Junior Seau, star linebacker with the Chargers, committed suicide in May, and CTE was implicated.

The “concussion crisis” is threatening the game itself, at every level.  Two Pop Warner kids’ coaches were suspended when five boys reportedly suffered concussions in the early minutes of one game.

While there is little doubt that CTE exists and has wreaked havoc on the lives of many sufferers, there is also the likelihood that it will serve as a handy excuse for a variety of bad decisions.  When Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs shot his girlfriend and then himself earlier this month, some were quick to blame CTE.

hillaryAnd when Hillary Clinton was called to testify before Congress about her baffling failure to prevent, mitigate, or correctly report the murder of our Libyan ambassador and those who attempted to protect him at Benghazi, she declined to appear, invoking the “concussion” defense.   She reportedly fainted from dehydration and hit her head, although she did not seek medical attention.

I’m going to miss football, but there’s a silver lining.  Next time I forget my wedding anniversary, or throw my socks in the laundry hamper inside out,  I’ll just explain, “Honey, remember that football game when I was a sophomore . . . ?”

Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side

Rockin' On the Right Side

Don’t you know it hit me like a hammer
Hit me like a ton of lead
You know it hit me like a hammer
You know it hit me, baby

Hit Me Like A Hammer – Huey Lewis