Mike Rowe is widely known for hosting the TV show Dirty Jobs, which explores the often dangerous but always vital labor jobs that our nation depends on. Rowe recently testified before the U.S. Senate on CTE (Career Technical Education):
In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of ‘higher education’ to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled ‘alternative.’ Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as ‘vocational consolation prizes,’ best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of ‘shovel ready’ jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.” This is troubling, says Rowe, especially given that “a few years from now, an hour with a good plumber, if you can find one, is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.
A recent study from the Fordham Institute demonstrates that career and technical education can be an excellent education choice, and one worth considering by students and their parents. The study acknowledges that so-called “vocational training” has gotten a bad rap for being a way of tracking students, that is identifying students deemed to be lacking in aptitude for college and shuffling them toward a dead-end job. In recent years, however, CTE has become a developed and sensible option that enables today’s students to find well-paying jobs in industries like plumbing, welding, etc.
The goal of today’s CTE is simple: to connect students with growing industries in the American economy and to give them the skills and training required for long-term success.
The study examined Arkansas, which requires students to take CTE courses in order to graduate. The goal is to help expose students to different options that they might not have otherwise considered. The highlights from the study are noteworthy:
• “Students with greater exposure to CTE are more likely to graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, be employed, and earn higher wages.”
• “CTE is not a path away from college: Students taking more CTE classes are just as likely to pursue a four-year degree as their peers.”
• “Students who focus their CTE coursework are more likely to graduate high school by twenty-one percentage points compared to otherwise similar students (and they see a positive impact on other outcomes as well).”
• “CTE provides the greatest boost to the kids who need it most—boys, and students from low-income families.”
Parents, it is worth considering seeking out opportunities for your student to explore CTE opportunities. All work, whether installing wiring in a house or creating the architectural plans for a skyscraper, is meaningful and full of dignity.