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 support 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:
- Architecture and Construction
- Arts, AV Technology and Communications
- Business Management and Administration
- Education and Training Careers
- Health Sciences
- Hospitality and Tourism
- Human Services
- Information Technology
- Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security
- 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
Every 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!