Too often today, people assume they know what is best for a total stranger. I am certain I’m guilty of this on an almost weekly basis. Blame it on my being a teacher. We are often pretty sure we know what is best for the children in our classrooms. We are often right, but sometimes we do miss the mark. An example is the belief that all students should engage in a college preparatory track. We are learning that because of the career opportunities available to people today, the high cost of a college degree, the ability for children to learn so much online before they leave high school, and several other issues, the best opportunity for a student might be to head to a vocational institute, or even straight to the world of work.
During our strategic planning process, the community leaders and Foundation board members have had several discussions about ways we can partner with businesses and technical schools to provide more chances for our students to find great jobs while filling a desperate need for skilled jobs in our state. This conversation has really opened my eyes. Could I maybe not know what’s best for my kids?
A quick search on most any job site will likely return dozens of skilled trade jobs in Oklahoma City. Take a look at the starting salaries when you search. You’ll be impressed if you don’t already know that entry level jobs in some of these high-need fields will start at over $50,000. I just talked with a woman who represents a large Oklahoma employer, and she mentioned that they are losing thirty and forty year veterans in their skilled workforce. Where are their replacements?
It is true that lots of roles which are jobs today may not be jobs in the future. CBS Sunday Morning did a report a while back showing the diversity of automated jobs coming into the market. It is exciting and scary at the same time. A lot of emphasis is being put on how many jobs have been automated, and the thinking goes that we won’t need as many skilled trades. That may prove to be true, but we are nowhere near that time. Plumbers, HVAC people, welders, auto technicians, and carpenters are still in high demand, and will be for the foreseeable future.
So let me offer this mea culpa. Every student does NOT need to be on a college preparatory track. We need to do our part as public schools to make sure that students - and even more importantly their parents - understand that it is OK if our child chooses to become plumbers instead of political scientists, or mechanics instead of marketing managers.
How can we move this conversation into action?