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Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 20, 2014

* My buddy Rob, the farmer in Madison County, posted this on his Twitter feed not long ago…


If you click the link you’ll see some interesting stuff, including

That push away from skilled trades is now haunting manufacturing. Not only are welders older with few younger apprentices, key sectors like oil and gas, which require extensive pipe welding, is booming. Adding to the shortage in welders is reshoring—or the return of lost manufacturing to the U.S. that may require welding.

The average American welder is 54-years-old, and about 45 percent of the workforce is in their 50s or older, said Monica Parr, corporate director of workforce development at the Miami-based American Welding Society.

The U.S. economy includes more than 388,000 welding jobs. The welding society projects the need for 111,000 new welders in five years as industry needs grow and some workers retire.

Welders make good bucks and we’re not training nearly enough of them to meet demand.

* Rob and I had a long talk about the story and the subject of tech careers. Rob isn’t just a farmer. He’s the president of the Illinois Career and Technical Administrators group and runs Madison County’s CTE system. He’s also a former CTE teacher, and a darned good one.

He eventually asked me if he could start a conversation on the blog, so I told him to send me an e-mail. He did…

Rich,

I would like to take a moment to ask a small favor of you and your readers. As a loyal reader myself, I have come to respect the numerous and varied viewpoints that fill the comment pages of your blog. I would like to ask them some questions pertaining to Career and Technical Education

As we are currently fighting a battle against unemployment, it makes sense to look at what jobs are readily available and what jobs will be looking for workers in the future. A four year college degree, while perfect for some, is not the right fit for everyone. When talking with business leaders, unions, and folks outside of education who are employers, I find some common threads. They all want someone who will show up every day, on time and ready to work. They all want somone who can solve problems, can think on their feet, and can get along well with others. These are all skills learned in CTE classes.

    1) Should we be guiding our children and students into courses that better prepare them for what employers are needing now and in the future?

    2) What is your opinion of CTE (career and technical education-formerly known as vocational education) and its potential impact on preparing students for employment?

    3) Do you and/or your readers have any lasting memories from taking a CTE Course (Agriculture, Business, Family and Consumer Sciences, Health Occupations, and Technology Engineering or Industrial Arts) while in high school?

I have included a graph from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows the education requirements for future jobs through 2018. [Click here.]

The above is titled “Percent distribution of job openings due to growth and replacement needs by education or training level, projected 2008-18″

Please thank your readers for me and thank you for your time and consideration.

My high schools had shop class, which was mainly a blow-off class for most of us. Rob is attempting to push the state’s tech educational training into the 21st Century. That means forgetting about making ash trays out of a block of wood.

Rob is at the Statehouse today for “CTE Day.” So, how about we talk about what you think the state ought to do to help foster better tech educational training?

- Posted by Rich Miller        


49 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:06 pm:

    Well the programming classes I had in HS did lead to what I do today. They were not called ‘tech’ classes in the traditional sense, but that is what they were. Hell in a way a decent portion of my undergraduate education was trade school.

    I think part of it is going to require us to say it is ok that you don’t go to college. Not everyone needs 2 years of algebra. That learning some useful skills can be well useful.

    In order to foster better tech education training.

    A) Offer more of it at the community college level including certificates that just focus on the skill.

    B) Tax breaks for entities that take on apprentices ( working with an approved program)

    C) Make it a real metric for High Schools, just like math and reading scores, do some testing of the tech students and for a really crazy (and likely too expensive idea) make it hands on testing. This car won’t start figure out why.. Wire this three phase circuit correctly.

    Also for what it is worth the Boy Scouts now offer a welding merit badge. Would love to know how to do some basic welding.


  2. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:12 pm:

    I was making different things in shop class.


  3. - Name Withheld - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:20 pm:

    Some economic data would be nice on wages for welders based on training and length of employment, relative economic mobility, etc. Parents and prospective students/apprentices want to know that the income is good and has the potential to get better.

    Additionally, some information on the relative safety of the field would be nice. I can see some people having visions of welders on top of skyscrapers.


  4. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:23 pm:

    Aren’t community colleges supposed to be hooking up with the employers in their districts and matching courses with employment needs?


  5. - dupage dan - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:27 pm:

    I was a welder in a shipyard in NE Wisconsin back in the 70s. Working conditions were poor and the union was worse than ineffectual. Breathing in stick welding fumes inside a double bottom hull section without ventilation got me to thinking about other work.

    When I came back to Illinois I got back into welding. Most of the good paying jobs were hard to come by. Having clout in the construction/manufacturing world is a problem there. Still, I believe had I stuck to it I would be enjoying a decent standard of living. Many types of welding out there. Training exists. Getting certified in specialty areas would boost pay considerably. Same goes for tool making and machinist jobs. Machine set up for CAD can be a good living.

    The focus on college only with the high cost of tuition for our children is not for everyone.


  6. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    Wordslinger: bingo! At some point perhaps the demand for welder sand the like, combined with the cost of higher education AND our need to adjust our College vs “blue collar” biases, proper balance will come


  7. - Pete - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    As a structural engineer, I know first hand that this is true.

    It needs to be corrected at the education and at the union labor level. Those two entities are disconnected.

    Raising the minimum wage doesn’t help the skilled trades. Union apprentices don’t compete with the minimum wage worker. That’s not even up for debate.

    Maybe the priorities of Local 150 are too focused on passing legislation that expands what professions are covered by prevailing wage instead of investing in recruitment. Imagine the difference in economy if DBE/WBE goals were applied to the trades with the same vigor as they are applied to AE and construction firms!


  8. - liandro - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    I work with a lot of young kids. I have seen some of them feel pressured to head off to a local or distant college and struggle as they tried to figure out what they wanted. Many then change course into nursing, trades, etc and are much happier. The huge push to attend four years of college or else you’re judged “lessor” can be a problem.

    The simple truth is there are many sectors hurting for employees, but the unemployed don’t have the right skill set. Adding more to our education infrastructure that deals with those skills has gained traction in some areas, and should be continued. Those are real, career-based opportunities. But again, one of the biggest problems I see is kids don’t feel they can be “proud” of some of those jobs–until they get a little older and find pride in simply working hard and making solid bucks.


  9. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    ===A four year college degree, while perfect for some, is not the right fit for everyone.===

    Absolutely true. Not everyone needs a bachelor’s degree, but I would argue everyone needs some post-high school education. A janitor working in a hospital needs to know something about infectious diseases for example. A welder on a pipeline crew needs to be able to read a map and communicate effectively. Community colleges have great potential to help meet the need to give everyone access to higher education. If we were really smart, we’d expand them and require all children to attend two years of post-high school education, in trades, in business, to get remedial skills, or to get an associate’s degree and transfer to a four-year college.

    When I was in high school, I begged my parents to let me take shop classes with my buddies. They’d get bussed out to the Career Center all afternoon and they had a blast. My parents made me take honors classes, science, math, foreign languages, etc. Sure, it helped me in college and in my career, but I can’t fix anything and most power tools scare me.

    Final thought, a lot of the trades have been reluctant to accept apprentices who weren’t “in the family,” either literally or figureatively. Among the results of this closed system of apprenticeship is that African Americans were largely excluded from the trades like plumbing, electrical, carpentry, etc., and today’s shortage of welders. Public education can and should open up more career opportunities to more people and the economy will certainly benefit from a skilled workforce.

    P-14 ought to be the new P-12, and like P-12, it ought to be free.


  10. - liandro - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:36 pm:

    @dupage dan: I agree that one of the problems with the construction world is not having the right connections/clout to get the jobs or positions. People who know someone always have a leg up…


  11. - Walter Mitty - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    The reality is, in many places, the myth of a college education loaded with debt and no jobs is still the choice. These programs that teach a skill and allow you to continue at the community college with no debt. Will catch on. We have the first generation of students that are not doing better than the one before. Health fields, welding, and engineering are just a few. It ain’t just mechanics anymore. By the way, those that do choose car repair. Look up what a union mechanic makes at the start… Better than many of us would ever dream. Good on you Rich to highlight the real need. Send this to all junior high and high school parents…There are better options for kids.


  12. - Irish - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    Funding for education needs to be addressed, - NOW!

    Forget the fluff stuff, the bills to make it illegal to smoke when the wind is below 15 mph, or the bill to require homeowners to pee in a cup to determine how much soda they drank that day, and concentrate on the important, tough, issues.

    The school formula needs to be brought into the 21st century, and it needs to be absolutely fair across the board.
    Then there needs to be a law passed that if the state misses payments to a school district, that district can withhold the same amount from their payments to the state.
    And any legislation that passes containing a mandate for schools also has to fully fund that mandate or it is null and void.

    There needs to be a law passed that makes building trades/vocational classes the same as other core subjects. If your school cannot provide them then the student has the option to attend a different school at the district’s expense that does provide them.

    My local high school district board just voted last week to eliminate the building trades program because it cost too much. $30,000.00/year.

    The district is facing a deficit because of loss in revenues and late state aid payments.
    However, they just gave an increase to their administrative staff of 5% over three years. And they just completed a million plus renovation of the main gym. The football field is the envy of the other high schools in the area, and now they have two of those neat flashy signs out in front of the school.
    For a town our size and a district our size this is despicable!

    This is where lowering the unemployment level starts. This is where you build the pool of workers to move the economy along. and the idiots don’t get that!


  13. - Wensicia - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:40 pm:

    Our local community college has a tech campus working with my high school to train students for vocational opportunities with local businesses, but it’s available to a select number of candidates.

    We need more vocational training centers to meet the needs of students unable to achieve college level scores in academics.


  14. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:42 pm:

    Thanks for posting this. It seems like more regions are looking at the match between training, skills and jobs. Community colleges in other states have tried innovative partnerships with Amazon, UPS and others to build a workforce for those who are not interested or best suited for a four-year degree.

    I have to say, my dad was a union welder and electrician in Chicago then Denver - it is a hard job that contributed to his arthritis and early retirement. When my now-30 yr old brother (who served in the Navy from 2001-2005) signed up for the electricians’ apprenticeship, I was leery.

    My dad was laid off on and and off for years. While he was paid well, it took a permanent position at one of the nation’s most dangerous workplaces (Rocky Flats) to stabilize his income. He has been fine, but was exposed to radiation over the years.

    The work isn’t for everyone. Welding and electricity are high skilled jobs. The field is competitive with the younger preferred over the older - which can be disheartening. And it is rigorous, my brother had some MH issues after his service and could not maintain the consistency or early hours.

    Maybe more recruitment of vets who have the skill set, like the risk taking and time outdoors / in a nontraditional setting. High schools - let kids know these jobs pay well, are interesting and a good fit for people who like to work with their hands / are creative / and smart but don’t like offices.


  15. - Just Me - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:44 pm:

    I was going to make a snarky comment but held back, but my point would have been something related to how this debate correlates to the minimum wage debate, and how while this trade does make good money and is a good career path, it probably requires some training opportunities that don’t pay so well in the beginning.


  16. - Griz - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Currently teaching in Tech-Prep at the secondary level. Courses are AutoCAD 2014, Cisco Networking, and A+ certification. Not exactly your old shop classes. Our students learn real life skills. Study Work Keys training and have higher graduation rates than others. These programs keep students in school. They are providing needed training for business industry in areas of Health, Culinary, Building Trades, Welding, and Ag Science. These programs provide training for jobs! We matriculate to college teaching dual credit and providing STEM engineering paths for our students. This is an integral part of their overall education and a basis for their continued learning.


  17. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Mike Rowe has been talking about this and advocating for quite some time.
    http://www.mikeroweworks.com/home


  18. - Anon in BB - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:48 pm:

    My wife and I are already having this conversation, and our son just turned one.

    As long as it doesn’t become “we need X, so get training in Y. You can make a great living! People with those skills are in demand!” Which is what happened with business administration degrees in the late 80s/early 90s. Everyone was getting business admin degrees that the market became over saturated with those grads.

    I don’t think pushing anyone into a traditional four-year degree, especially if they are going to get a degree that is niche and isn’t marketable, is the way to go. Let people find their strengths and weaknesses and then find a field that fits that. If one is more mechanically inclined, so be it. Don’t force someone to get a degree in a field they are going to hate, or not do well in, because of the prestige factor or “everyone needs a college degree”.


  19. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:49 pm:

    Took courses at night on basic electricity, woodworking (several), basic welding (should have taken more), and two basic computer sciences, including one on micro coding (think writing out in English all the design steps involved in development of a software program).

    Today, you can’t find the woodworking courses due to liability issues, and they don’t teach micro coding any more (too bad, that’s a real loss - because it teaches you to really think it through).

    These days I’m setting aside two hours a week to do Open Street Map (www.openstreetmap.org) work in my area. It’s all about the little stuff.

    As an aside, I spent last Friday over at the Univ. of IL - Urbana/Champaign at the Engineering Open House. It’s primarily student run event (here’s the link: http://eoh.ec.illinois.edu/), and it covers the entire School of Engineering.

    They had approx. 1800 to 2200 grade/high school students (and some parents) on Friday, and say, maybe 1400(?) on Saturday. It was chaos, and it was wondrous, and it was nuts. Some parents were appalled, most went with the flow, and the kids loved it! Supposed to open at 10 AM, by 09:30 students were 5 deep at exhibits all over the place.

    On Friday they had north of 100 buses on campus for the EOH. If you are into technology, it was the place to be.


  20. - Denver to Chicago - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    Thanks for posting this. It seems like more regions are looking at the match between training, skills and jobs. Community colleges in other states have tried innovative partnerships with Amazon, UPS and others to build a workforce for those who are not interested or best suited for a four-year degree.

    I have to say, my dad was a union welder and electrician in Chicago then Denver - it is a hard job that contributed to his arthritis and early retirement. When my now-30 yr old brother (who served in the Navy from 2001-2005) signed up for the electricians’ apprenticeship, I was leery.

    My dad was laid off on and and off for years. While he was paid well, it took a permanent position at one of the nation’s most dangerous workplaces (Rocky Flats) to stabilize his income. He has been fine, but was exposed to radiation over the years.

    The work isn’t for everyone. Welding and electricity are high skilled jobs. The field is competitive with the younger preferred over the older - which can be disheartening. And it is rigorous, my brother had some MH issues after his service and could not maintain the consistency or early hours.

    Maybe more recruitment of vets who have the skill set, like the risk taking and time outdoors / in a nontraditional setting. High schools - let kids know these jobs pay well, are interesting and a good fit for people who like to work with their hands / are creative / and smart but don’t like offices.


  21. - carbaby - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:53 pm:

    I agree with you 47th. I also truly believe we need to take away the huge pressure that kids must go to college. For those kids who traditional college isn’t for, they shouldn’t be made to feel like they are failures or less than. Their high school education should also be more reality based/career oriented. Some communities are more successful than others in promoting this but there really should be a full out push for this to be available for everyone. If they desire to go into the trades, then they should be truly encouraged to do so.


  22. - Demoralized - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    We need to invest more into CTE and we need to have our schools counseling students on ALL of the post-secondary options out there. We shouldn’t be pressuring kids to go to college simply for the sake of going to college.


  23. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:00 pm:

    Btw, if you want to learn how to fix different types of modern technology, head on over to http://www.ifixit.com/ They have a whole bunch of free repair guides (see http://www.ifixit.com/Guide )

    They are a great resource, and not only do they tell (and even show you) you how, they tell you want you will need. Yeah, they want to sell you the parts and their tools (which is pretty decent stuff, btw), but if you want to be able to repair stuff, you’re going to have to have the tools.


  24. - Palanon - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    God bless vocational and technical education, and we don’t do enough of it.

    I went to HS in Carbondale, and was learing how to program in RPG II and Fortran (kinda like BASIC) in 1974. We had an actual IBM-mini in the room with magnetic core and punched cards, as well as the massive 1MB hard drive.

    CCHS also had (”had”) the vocational center, housed in the old “black high school” campus. That was great. Geeks like me took print shop and photography. The cool class was auto shop. There was also a carpentry trade class that built a house every two years and sold it. Some parts of the high school population were steered towards “apparel processing” (dry cleaning) and commercial food prep (restaurant school). I think that some of the steering might have had a racial component.

    Also, while still in high school, I took adult “continuing education” classes at SIU-C’s Ordill campus near Carterville, where I learned stick welding. That was a hoot, and I really enjoyed it. For many of my classmates, however, it was not an enjoyable diversion, but what they felt they must do to land a good job in the mines. So for many of them this type of non-credit education was still an appreciated opportunity.


  25. - Mason born - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:03 pm:

    I think the stigma of not going to college is a big factor along with the idea that I deserve to go to college. I wonder however if the rapidly increasing tuition will place downward pressure on this. There are a lot of college educated kids who are making less than these tech grads.

    The other problem i’ve seen is a lot of graduates think that when they leave school and go to that first position they are going to make the same pay as the guy who has years of experience and a Profesional Liscense. It’s hard to convince a student that the 25-50k starting pay he can make welding is a better bet than the 100k he thinks he will make as an executive with a business degree. Unfortunately the poor kid ends up in the mail room for 20k but with 6 figure student debt.


  26. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:08 pm:

    My plumber and HVAC friends banked some serious cash since December, what with all the broken pipes and furnace breakdowns and such. They worked as much as they wanted to, and people were happy to pay them.


  27. - Two Cents - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:09 pm:

    Interesting that this came up today. Mike Rowe has thrown his support behind this topic and posted a link to an article about Ottowa HS students protesting the disconinuation of their Trades program.

    http://m.mywebtimes.com/news/local/can-of-worms-tradesmen-join-suspended-oths-students/article_089d574c-8721-54c5-a886-0bf5571dc855.html?mode=jqm

    Seems to me that it’s important to give HS students some exposure to what the Trades have to offer and some additional technical education, since many now require some computer skills. As previous posters stated, a 4 year college isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t know what else is out there you won’t explore other options.


  28. - Commander Norton - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    A few thoughts:

    1) Every student who could possibly be admitted to a 2-year or 4-year college needs to be given information about how to prepare, apply and get financial aid. But likewise, every student (even the ones readily identified as “college-bound”) needs to have information about career and technical programs. I know someone who got B.A. and had a good office job but was unhappy and finally quit to learn plumbing. He is now a happy - and talented - plumber.

    2) High schools are going to need to become more flexible not just in counseling students, but scheduling their classes. High school kids shouldn’t have to essentially decide at the beginning of freshman year whether they’re college-track or career-track. A kid taking four APs should also be able to try a shop class if she wants. A kid on the vocational track should, if the teacher thinks he can handle the work, be able to try AP Chem.

    3) High schools and community colleges must work together. I was shocked to find out that in my local school district, freshmen and sophomores in high school can’t get credit for courses taken at the local community college, whether those courses are academic or vocational. With a teacher’s or guidance counselor’s permission, students should be able to avail themselves of all the educational resources available to them, not languish in classes that are too easy for them or electives that don’t lead where they want to go.


  29. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:19 pm:

    denver to chicago

    Great points. the trades get laid off in the winter often, the work does take a toll on the body, big money can be made in the boom times, but you need to know how to budget for the lean times.


  30. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:21 pm:

    You’re on to something Commander Norton,

    In my experience, most Community College classrooms are empty during the day and full at night. High schools are full during the day, and empty at night. There must be a better way to align schedules and get better use of existing public education facilities.


  31. - Mason born - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:24 pm:

    Realized i didn’t address Rich’s proposed topic.

    I wonder if the state shouldn’t start a Mandatory Basic Tech class. Nothing crazy a 1 semester class maybe have it opposite Drivers ed. Something with the basics such as here is how you change the oil in your car, change your car battery, wire a ceiling fan, fix a clogged p-trap etc. make them do the skill to pass the class. Not only would kids learn some basic life skills but would get exposure to some of the trade professions.


  32. - Illinois Manufacturers' Association Education Foundation - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:38 pm:

    According to the US Commerce Department, the average annual salary and benefits in 2012 for manufacturing occupations was $77,505.00. In Illinois we need to replace more than 30,000 production workers every year through 2027 to account for retirements of the Baby-Boom generation. Machinists, joiners and welders make up one-third of all manufacturing jobs, so there are thousands of opportunities available today. Starting pay is lower than the $77K of course because most workers apply for jobs with little to no skills. But those who have taken the time train in welding, particularly those who obtain a certificate as Certifieed Welding Inspector from the American Welding Society often start in the high $40s and in a very short time exceed the national average salary and benefits.

    The IMA Education Foindation is working with 30 community Colleges and a growing number of high schools to train and certify a skilled workforce for advanced manufacturing. Most all the credentialed programs align to college degrees, including post-baccalaureate degrees in disciplines like engineering and Operations Management.

    There are real opportunities in manufacturing careers and we are very pleased that the education community has been anxious to partner with us.


  33. - Commander Norton - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:46 pm:

    I could absolutely get behind that, Mason born. I have a degree from a top-tier university, but I can’t fix anything on a car or most things in my house. I pay other people to fix stuff. I tell myself I’m stimulating the economy, but still…

    That brings to mind, though, the role of college admissions officers. Right now, most top-tier universities are looking for an applicant who has taken every AP offered and then filled up the rest of her schedule with the most challenging academic options available - perhaps with a break for band or art, if the students excels in that area. Taking even one vocational class is considered the kiss of death.


  34. - Mason born - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:52 pm:

    Commander Norton

    That’s one reason why i thought it should be mandated. Normally i hate the whole mandate thing.


  35. - DuPage - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:53 pm:

    It’s not an either/or situation. People who can do well academically also tend to be able to do well is skilled trades. Most electricians, plumbers, and welders I know are highly, highly intelligent people.


  36. - Timmeh - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 1:57 pm:

    Part of the equation needs to be changing the culture of schools. I graduated high school in 08. The attitude was generally that stupid students took shop classes and smart students took math and science. You can’t just make classes mandatory; you need to change the attitude of the students. Part of that is having shop teachers who can show students that the shop classes are going to help, even if you’re going to go to college.

    I agree with the “making a ashtray out of a block of wood” comment that Rich has in the post. The mandatory shop class I had in 7th grade was all woodworking. Focus on the major industries and subjects that might be useful for future engineers.


  37. - And I Approved This Message - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    —-Employers are looking for someone who will show up every day, on time and ready to work. They all want someone who can solve problems, can think on their feet, and can get along well with others-

    Seems like the thousands of young veterans who have come home to find a job shortage would be the first place to look.


  38. - Bemused - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 2:53 pm:

    Early in my work life I spent two years as a welder on a construction crew building Bucyrus Erie 2570 Draglines for the Mining Industry. These could move 100 cubic yards of earth in a single bucket. The work paid well but as others have said conditions can be tough.
    The only real experience I had with welding before hiring in with the company was a High school shop class. The problem was that class taught me little more than how to strike an arc, and I ended with a lot of socks with little burn holes in them. My real teachers were the cousin that got me on with the company and a foreman who saw I was willing to learn.
    My feeling is yes we need to train young people in the trades and do a better job of it. One of my last job duties was to bring new people into the trades. The first test we gave to potential apprentices was a math test geared to the 8th grade level. This was just the kind of math they would deal with on a frequent basis. That test often eliminated 50% or better of the applicants. Once in the program they trained both on the job and in the classroom. I made sure to let all those who wanted in know the trades were a tough row to hoe but the payoff could be good. It can take a toll on the body.


  39. - Under Influenced - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 2:57 pm:

    Business, Family and Consumer Sciences aka Home Economics aka Cooking Class etc.

    A true “Family & Consumer Science” or Home Economics class is needed!!!

    As a young adult, I feel incompetent because I struggle with adult tasks that should have been taught in my home economics class (instead I had to learn about cooking and proper dinner etiquette). Things such as: filing my taxes, choosing the right insurance (car & home), how to start saving for retirement, how to create a family budget….I could go on and on.

    Please make Business, Family and Consumer Sciences classes useful!


  40. - Illinois Manufacturers' Association Education Foundation - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 3:16 pm:

    According to the federal Commerce Department, the average annual salary and benefit in 2012 for the manufacturing sector was $77,505.00. Machinists, joiners and welders comprise abut one-third of the manufacturing workforce which faces retirements of 30,000 production workers every year until 2024 to replace the Baby-Boom generation.

    New workers make less than the average of course, mainly because they lack the skills needed to be a part of the productive workforce.

    The IMA Education Foundation is working with 30 community colleges and their feeder high schools statewide to implement programs of study to meet the workforce needs of manufacturers. Using industry established, nationally portable credentials, those interested in more than 450 career choices can learn those skills beginning in high schools. Pathways of study in many disciplines can lead to Bachelors and post-Baccalaureate degrees in all forms of Engineering and Operations Management to name just two.

    The IMA Education Foundation has been pleased and encouraged by the willingness shown by the state’s education system to partner with us, and we look forward to expanding our relationships in the days ahead.


  41. - MOD - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    There is a significant opportunity that needs to be taken advantage of in this area with regards to military veterans. The vast majority of enlisted do not have a college degree but do have crossover skill sets and would find extremely productive careers in fields like welding. For most (nearly all) junior enlisted jobs of this nature would not result in any drop and pay and provide a clear earning trajectory that would meet or exceed what they could earn in the military. Additionally, they have education credits that can be applied to the trade schools and community colleges here in the state to get the necessary certifications and start an a apprenticeship. The key is making it easy for them to connect the dots by having the larger unions and trade organizaitons do targeted outreach to returning servicemembers to show them what needs to be done. As a vet myself it was overwhelming coming back to civiliam life and trying to figure out what opportunities are out there and I think there is a lot of untapped potential here…


  42. - G.I.Joe - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 3:59 pm:

    Great opportunity for some! College is NOT for everyone! I enjoyed vocational classes even though it seemed to be a blow-off at times, I did learn something and it was fun. I took a college level welding class after high school. I stressed to my daughters that they needed to go to college so they could be self supporting. They worked their way through college, paid for a car and the gas. Their mother and I couldn’t afford it at the time. My wife and I both wish we could have gone to college. At least we would have better jobs now and could have probably provided for our daughters better. They are very successful, dependable and proud of their accomplishments. I think that is because they worked for their education. My nephew became a welder after searching for his nitch for awhile. He seems very happy. I would like to see a mix of vocational and college for many, but so many can’t afford it.Education is the key. Vocational is the way to go for hands on learners. College for book learners.


  43. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 4:34 pm:

    Ottawa High School voted to eliminate their trades program earlier this week, citing inadequate funding.

    http://www.mywebtimes.com/news/local/can-of-worms-tradesmen-join-suspended-oths-students/article_089d574c-8721-54c5-a886-0bf5571dc855.html


  44. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 6:44 pm:

    To the Post,

    I actually waited to talk to family members in Trades (HVAC, Die Caster) about this, so I would know what I am talking about from those IN this pickle too, and their thoughts.

    My takeaway;

    Learned Trades in High School and some Junior College on the advancing of the career, and while its still very lucrative and the need is so great, there is never anyone banging on the doors to “Get in”.

    Usually its a child, usually male, learing because a family member is also in A trade, or in THAT trade, and can get them a job, or take over a family business.

    “Why is no one knocking down doors to get these jobs?”

    College is seen as “making it” in some families with long trade histories. Co-workers say, “My child won’t be sweating like I am doing this. They are getting an education.”

    So, the one real pipeline, family, is also drying up, as those in Trades strive so “their kids” have a better life, but in reality, its as thought the “grass is greener”, with those kids graduating, owing thousands in debt, living back at home, and leaning the Trade anyway, and in some cases, enjoying it, because they wanted to be an “X” but a parent told them to “go to college, don’t be an ‘X’ …”

    While the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s had a great “blue collar” attitude towards being “blue collar”, the 80’s and after have found more people looking at the idea of education is far better than what a great life working with your hands could bring, and with shortages, can bring again.

    Just what I gleamed from the convos.

    All that said, there should not be a “stigma”, but an embrace of growing the workforce in needed jobs, that are so skilled that Dopes thinkikng pushing a button to get heat, or central air, or a car start is easy work, and that ignorance also needs to be adressed for that workforce to have kids wanting to learn these skills and feel its worth it.


  45. - Mason born - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 7:44 pm:

    Think we should allow business to deduct the cost of training up to the bachelor level off their taxes. Let business determine who they want to train and recruit. IMHO would provide the best of both worlds. Business gets to screen for best candidates employees get their foot in the door and a life skill going forward.


  46. - Just the Facts - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 9:59 pm:

    Thank you for posting this Rich. Rob is a friend of mine. Thank you all for posting on this very important topic. Please realize three things about CTE. 1) Decades of research show that students with 3 or more high school CTE classes are far more likely to persevere in college and obtain a degree. 2) CTE students are far less likely to dropout of high school. The societal costs of a student dropping out are astronomical. 3) CTE students are more prepared for the world of work.

    Please look at the chart which is linked to in the text. It states 22% of our work force needs a bachelors degree or higher. The BLS now says it is 20% but have not published an updated chart.

    In 2012, 70% of high school graduates enrolled in college upon graduation. Remarkably, some wonder why college remediation rates are so high at time we are sending 40% of our below average students to college. Following is a link to an article I wrote on this topic several years back.

    http://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2010/aug/education-is-economic-issue

    Thank you again Rich and Rob.


  47. - RNUG - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 10:50 pm:

    As regular readers know, I’ve advocated for better K-12 schools, including the old voc-ed type schools, to be better funded even if the money has to be taken away from the colleges.

    I understand the value of a college degree and have one. Did it help me in my career? Not all that much, other than teaching rational thinking and how to keep learning. The tech and programming courses I took were of much more value and led to major career advancement. Although I will admit all the English classes did teach me enough to write books and manage to do a proofreader / editor’s job … which came in handy at one point.

    I think I also understand the voc-ed side of things; took draftsman classes in high school in prep for going into a college engineering program. I’ve mentioned before my dad’s family was union (construction trades). I learned various skills from family and friends, including my talent with auto repair from one of dad’s buddies, some basic carpenter skills one summer working for my girlfriend’s dad, and some electronics in college. Later on I learned basic HVAC skills from my father-in-law, and improved my plumbing skills with tips from my professional brother-in-law, and in retirement I’ve learned to do old school metal body work.

    IMO, the bottom line is we need to make sure the kid’s today learn the basic K-12 skill set (the old 3 R’s) which INCLUDES learning how to keep learning, AND also learn at least one marketable trade skill in addition to any further advanced education.


  48. - Just the Facts - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 10:52 pm:

    “We are lending money we don’t have, to kids that can’t pay it back, to train for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.” – Mike Rowe


  49. - Bemused - Thursday, Mar 20, 14 @ 11:43 pm:

    A couple of things just to throw out there.
    Training people to do a job has a certain cost. I think who picks up that cost is at issue here. Training in public schools of course paid by John Q. Public who is feeling a bit stretched. Training after High school can be paid by Students or Employers. In the past I think employers did more on the job training, especially in the Trades and Crafts. It seems now to improve profit margins they have cut back on that and want someone else to pay those costs. Reminds me of going to lunch with certain co-workers and watching them do their best to ignore the check.
    Another reason the trades suffer is the intermittent nature of some construction work along with downward pressure on wages. A lot of well trained and fairly paid tradesmen are being undercut by traveling lower paid workers. Often these are Immigrants documented or otherwise. Check how many Anglos you see doing drywall work in the Chicago area. Some locals are not to interested in doing that type of work in climate conditions that range from 0 degrees to maybe over 100 for pay that is only marginally better than McDonalds. Go down to the southwest and in some cases if you are not part of a certain ethnic group you will have a hard time breaking into certain trades. I know how a lot of this sounds but I am only trying to pass along my personal field observations. Some trades are death defying acts and there needs to be a good reward for that.
    Oh and as to the ex military guys who want to do the trades, I think a program called “Helmets to Hardhats” is still out there. If gives priority entry for former service personnel.


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