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Skills Envy
Posted on July 01, 2009 by Thao Nelson
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Listen to this interesting podcast on the Brian Lehrer Show.  Despite the recession, jobs are available that require exacting skills obtained through voc-tech training not a college degree.  Richard Sennett, professor of sociology at NYU and the London School of Economics and author of several books including  the Craftsman, on why skilled workers with real-life experience in certain industries are still in high demand despite the recession, talks to callers who brag about their skills.
I'm the step-parent of two teenagers, one of whom has begun the college search pretty earnestly, and I just about fall out of my chair and have a panic attack every time I look at tuition costs for the schools she's interested in.  I'm the product of a wonderful four-year liberal arts education (I thank my lucky stars every day that somehow my studies in the oh-so-practical areas of religion, poetry, and philosophy landed me a family-sustaining career in workforce development!), and I honestly wouldn't trade that education for anything.  But it's interesting to me that when I was in high school, no one ever talked with me about our school's career and technical education programs, or about other options for post-secondary education and training, like apprenticeship.  I worked on a farm all throughout high school, and would have been interested in our school's very robust agricultural science program, but I was an "honors student" - which meant being "tracked" into AP classes rather than encouraged to explore career education and preparation options.

I think it's probably fair to say that that trend generally continues today.  My kids' high school has a pretty fantastic array of career and technical education programs, but no one to my knowledge has ever encouraged either of them to explore those options.  (To be truthful, my step-son is in a manufacturing and construction technology course, but only because of a class scheduling error.  I am happy to report that he is enjoying it, and we are reaping the benefits too - he just gave his father a wine rack he made in class.  Now, that's my kind of construction!)  I'm not knocking guidance departments - I know they are so often understaffed and overwhelmed.  But I just wish that work experience and career exposure and education were as mandatory in high school as are English and history.

I know, I sound like a cranky grown-up about to prattle on about how back in my day, we walked miles to school through blizzards and worked three after-school jobs, etc.  I have been known to do that at times, but I think the more important point here is a "cultural" one.  As much as it was just assumed that I would go to a four-year college, it was also just assumed that I would work during high school, and I am glad for the experience and the ethic I gained by doing so.  But work for work's sake doesn't seem to resound with this generation.  They want engagement, collaboration, gratification, independence, acknowledgment, and creativity.

It seems to me - if we can peel our kids away from Facebook, video games, texting, TV, etc. long enough - that we have an opportunity to support them in understanding how secondary and post-secondary career education activities and options, like pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship, provide them with the very work and life characteristics they value, like engagement and creativity and collaboration.  Sure, they could probably get those things by becoming PhDs in English lit, too - that was my initial plan, until I realized that spending over 10 years in school, amassing hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, and paying all that debt back on a professor's meager starting salary didn't sound quite so attractive.

So I'm tossing this out to you for dialogue: as workforce development professionals, how are you having success in engaging parents, students, teachers, and guidance counselors?  As parents, how are you talking with your kids about these options and encouraging them to pursue career and technical education?  What's working, and what more do we need to be doing?

These days we are all about forming more and more partnerships in order to combine resources, services and opportunities to better serve all American workers.  There are great partnership examples happening all around the country, and on

June 19, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. the Office of Apprenticeship will be hosting a webinar highlighting a unique Los Angeles area example.  This consortium of partners have developed a model that leverages resources from a variety of public, community, and workforce development agencies, as well as organized labor, and the employer communities to meet training needs and drive social equity goals such as:

 

  • Re-building the middle class
  • Re-investment in low income communities of color
  • Access to a network of quality employment placements
  • Ensuring the construction industry has a high skilled labor pool
  • Employers have a source of locally training workers

 http://mahernet.connectpro.acrobat.com/r58066797/

Susan Symons from the Kansas Registered Apprenticeship Program shared this webinar - Education for the Green Economy: Opportunities, Resources and Models and it is worthy of your review. She was right, it's chock full of resources around different types of green jobs, professional development, certification, and curricular material, partnership models.

Also, Five States have been chosen to receive assistance to develop "green" career technical programs of study:

  • Georgia -- energy, construction and transportation.
  • Illinois -- energy, utilities and waste management.
  • New Jersey -- various industries.
  • Ohio -- energy, biotech and agriculture.
  • Oregon -- wind, solar and construction.

What's going on in your area around the "greening" of apprenticeship?

Recovery Act supports Registered Apprenticeship in Kansas!

As previously reported, Kansas will make use of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars for expansion of Registered Apprenticeship opportunities through a program titled Registered Apprenticeship (RA)Scholarships.  RA Scholarships will provide up to $500 per year per apprentice toward the cost of related technical instruction for the first two years of training.  Training should be in the Kansas Department of Commerce critical industries which include:  Advanced Manufacturing, Aviation, Bio-Science/Animal Health, Energy, Professional Services and Value-Added Agriculture.  RA Scholarships will also apply to the Construction Industry and Rural Business Succession.

What's different from what was previously reported?  Based upon input from participants at the Kansas Action Clinic, eligibility requirements for the RA Scholarships program have been broadened.  Eligibility will now include all WIA eligible adults.  This will include dislocated workers, displaced homemakers and underemployed workers.   Eligibility will no longer be limited to only Dislocated Workers and underemployed individuals.  The change will open eligibility to more individuals and make the program easier to administer at the local level.

WIA Local Area funds may also be used for supportive services as needed and appropriate for the RA Scholarships program.

How is your state supporting Registered Apprenticeship with ARRA funds?