A Call to Action: The Need to Reform Secondary Education

Parents, schools and private industry can play a key role in better equipping our students for life after school and the full pursuit of the American dream. Nick Peterson of Miller Electric discusses the need to reform the way we think of secondary education and the path it leads to for our children and students.

Parents, schools and private industry can play a key role in better equipping our students for life after school and the full pursuit of the American dream. We must reform the way we think of secondary education and the path it leads to for our children and students.

The skilled labor shortage in the United States is a popular topic and has been discussed extensively in print, on the web and in schools all across the country. Yet manufacturers and fabricators still lament the lack of skilled men and women to fill the positions they have open. Sure, some job applicants can weld or have done some welding at other jobs in the past, but can they perform the specific tasks required of a new job?

The answer, unfortunately, is often no.

This is a very serious and time sensitive problem. The average age of a welder, for instance, continues to be in the mid-to-upper 50s. This generation is quickly approaching retirement and we don’t have the talent in the pipeline to backfill these positions. New technologies designed to increase productivity and efficiency also require workers to be certified in new processes and techniques, which often requires training. If we don’t address these problems now there will be nobody to hire.

So what can we do?

Industry, local schools/government and parents can all work together to raise awareness of the viability of a career in the skilled trades, and can partner with one another to make sure we put our kids on a path to success. The first challenge is to address the stigma that a career in the trades is “Plan B” or a fallback plan. In this issue of Melting Point, we’ll take a look at what each of these groups can do to put our kids and those who may be out of school or work on a path to employability and career fulfillment.

 

 

A brief note: a document we continue to be inspired by is Pathways to Prosperity, a report authored by the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that was published in February 2011. We believe it benefits those in the manufacturing and fabrication industries to explore this work.

PARENTS
Many parents today bought into the idea that a career in the trades is in some way “settling” or is beneath their kids’ abilities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To use welding as an example, our industry continues to fight the image of the work being dark, dirty and tedious. However, secondary education and experience in welding can lead to a number of well-paying jobs, including welding engineers, Certified Welding Inspectors (CWI) and certified welders. Welders with the right training can earn wages well above the median household income in the U.S. and, in some cases, as much as six figures each year.

And the total cost of education at a technical/vocational school is exponentially less than that of a 4-year university. Given the glut of college graduates competing for the same jobs, your child could be more employable, have spent less to achieve that level of education and could make more over the course of their career by pursuing a technical education.

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Nick Peterson

Nick Peterson is a welding engineer and curriculum developer for Miller Electric Mfg., 1635 West Spencer Street, P.O. Box 1079, Appleton, WI 54912-1079, 920-734-9821, www.millerwelds.com. For more information, email Nick at npeter@millerwelds.com.

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