When I was in high school, vocational education had two options for boys: woodshop and auto mechanics. I never took either class. Soon after moving to Alaska, I discovered that I wish I had when I found myself making repairs to outboards, older vehicles and 4-wheelers and doing most parts of house construction. Although my college training helped me with my current job, my lack of traditional voc ed classwork was a limitation for my life in rural Alaska. With the increasing focus on career technical education (today’s term for voc ed), preparing students for the world of work has expanded well beyond my high school’s industrial arts offerings to include career awareness in elementary school and career pathways in secondary school. The Governor’s CTE initiative announcement last week will, if supported by the legislature, take this conversation to a new level by placing an increased emphasis on students earning college credit and industry certification while in high school.
The renewed oil and gas activity in Cook Inlet and the assumption that a gas pipeline will terminate in Nikiski has many thinking that our local economy will only get stronger in the coming years. This growing economy will need more workers who have gotten a start on their career training while in high school. The training will however, be far more advanced than what has been offered in the past. Many of today’s jobs require skills in reading and math that were not needed fifteen years ago. It is thus important for our high school students to not think in terms of just forgoing the academics to focus for example, on welding. Such an approach will be short sighted. Our challenge then, is to ensure that our academic training is properly aligned with the vocational training. The Governor recognizes this changing need by promoting dual credit, let’s hope the legislature supports it.