Public Schools Must Follow the Jobs
For hundreds of years the American public school system had many roles and responsibilities. Schools prepare students to be informed and engaged citizens, how to appropriately interact with others, communication skills, critical thinking all of which is to prepare students for a career or occupation. For the vast majority of public school history they system tilted towards college preparation tracks as the primary focus and for good reason. Much of our history, and economic drivers of the times, relegated this pathway as the most successful for a student’s career preparation. College degrees are still a key factor in the access to higher paying jobs and greater mobility but the economic drivers are changing this focus. Public schools must follow the jobs of today and the future and that is in high skill and high demand technical, occupation and vocational pathways.
The globalization of markets, changing American GDP, high cost of college, accrued debt and shrinking availability of college degree jobs are all changing the scope of career preparation. Public schools must begin to understand this shift and the accelerated speed by which these jobs are becoming the pathways to the majority of American jobs in the future. Most schools across the country have invested resources that heavily tilt towards college preparation. Given the present factors mentioned above, schools must begin to, at a minimum, shift their focus to vocation-occupational preparation. Schools must begin to expose students to both pathways early in their formative education so by the time students are in high school they are in the most appropriate pathway for their future career aspirations.
If public schools must follow the jobs of the future they will have to address the stigma associated by school staff, parents and students that covers vocational pathways. Far too many people see these as the old shop classes for the students not “smart” enough to go to college. The reality is businesses are demanding more of a focus in high skill vocational training programs at the high school level. Countless reports by chambers of commerce and businesses attest to this demand so much so they are funding programs to do just this. The majority of the jobs of the future will be awarded to students who have the technical skills to enter the 21st century workforce.
College preparation must be a focus of public schools but equally emphasized must be high skill vocational training pathways. Public schools must follow the jobs of the future with the way they prepare K-12 students or far to many students will be straddled with debt with a college degree that prepares them for an ever shrinking job market.
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