Editorial: ‘First-class ticket to high-paying jobs’ 

One of the more destructive assumptions of the U.S. educational establishment during the last half-century was that every student should graduate from college and have a white-collar job. This fallacy left unanswered the important question of who was supposed to repair the nation’s automobiles, construct new housing, connect telecommunications networks, cook restaurant meals or operate X-ray machines.

A globally competitive 21st-century economy such as California needs a full spectrum of skilled employees capable of every kind of specialized work. But now businesses are increasingly hard put to fill their secure and high-paying job openings that require some practical technological training.

At the same time, considerably more high school students drop out than go on to college. Many of these drop-outs actually have solid vocational potential that could gain them lucrative and successful futures if they received relevant job-oriented training.

So it is a good thing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been so consistent in boosting a revival of what supporters now prefer to call "career technical education" instead of the somewhat patronizing "shop classes." State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell has steadily pushed this thinking as well.

The governor’s determination appears to have sparked a widening recognition of the importance of career training not requiring a four-year college degree. Last Thursday the state Board of Education unanimously approved new curriculum guidelines for schools to improve their teaching of the job skills needed by California’s 15 fastest-growing industries. Next the board will explore speeding up the process for issuing credentials to qualified career technical teachers.

This month Gov. Schwarzenegger called for a $52 million appropriation in the 2007-08 budget to recruit additional career technical teachers and improve coordination of vocational programs between high schools, community colleges and local employers. And November’s voter-approved school bond measure included $500 million for building more vocational facilities.

Such expenditures are admittedly costly, but statewide expansion of career technical schooling has to be one of the best investments California could make for retaining leadership in the global economy.

"We must reverse the trend of underfunding career technical education. California is leading the way in giving students a first-class ticket to high-paying jobs in the global marketplace," the governor was quoted in the 2007-08 budget announcement. "In addition, these programs help prevent drop-outs by keeping students interested in school. I know firsthand how beneficial these programs can be in helping students succeed. When I was in Austria, I learned how to work in retail and how to be a salesman, skills I’ve used for the rest of my life."

The governor has delivered variations on this message at numerous vocational facilities throughout the state, such as Duncan Polytechnical. That four-year occupational high school has one of the lowest-income student demographics in the Fresno School District, yet it still delivers the highest rate of graduation and college attendance. Students at Duncan understand they are learning something that suits their abilities and will directly benefit them financially.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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Monday, Oct 15, 2018


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