Emphasis on Vocational Ed is welcome

By Ricky Stutt | Published Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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Vocational education is a longstanding passion of mine. I believe in building students up to use their intellect, strong character, interpersonal and social skills. Such skills are vital to get through life and allow a person to support themselves and their family. Vocational skills are a necessary asset, whatever the status of the economy.

Many students start school with the end goal of their educational career being a college degree. Most believe that a four-year bachelor’s degree ensures success if they stay the course. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most students. Statistics show that just 30 percent of students who begin a four-year college return for their sophomore year. That number goes up to 45 percent that don’t return for their sophomore year if attending a two-year college.

In our current economy, there are thousands of college graduates competing with their parents’ generation, also with college degrees, for fewer jobs due to corporate downsizing and outsourcing. Add any debt that a student incurs due to college loans, and it’s a pretty bleak outlook.

Things must get better. There is no other choice. But we must put and keep programs in place to help students make that transition from secondary school to self-reliance and financial independence. If a student graduates from high school with vocational skills or a certified trade, they have the ability to finance their college expense if that is the route they choose. If a student chooses not to go to college, they already have a way to support themselves. It’s a win-win for everyone.

I was glad to see Roy Eaton’s March 2 column in the Wise County Messenger about vocational education. I’m glad to see that there are others who see the importance of vocational education/training for students. I know there are many more but it’s is not their passion and they get busy with other priorities.

Roy commented that “our public schools have, in recent years emphasized the ‘college track’ curriculum for most of our students. Of course, a college education is important for many professional fields. But it is also true that many students prefer to enter the workforce right away or after two years of community college training in skilled trades.”

When schools offer only one choice to students – which in our local schools’ case is that “college track” – then we are statistically setting up a staggering number of students for failure. The ingrained idea is that if you don’t get a four-year degree, then you are a failure.

People in the workforce with an associate’s degree (two-year degree) from an institution such as Weatherford College or Texas State Technical College can expect a median wage of $61,590. That compares to $34,180 for a high school graduate. In fact, an associate’s degree compares favorably with the salary of $63,430 for a bachelor’s degree from a four-year university. Tuition at a two-year institution is also much cheaper than a four-year university.

With state legislators in discussion about changing graduation requirements in the proposed Senate Bill 3, I would like to encourage the school board members and DISD administrators to start looking at how we could better equip our students for the real world. Our legislators are listening to parents’ and students’ concerns and needs, and we need to listen as well. After all, this is our district, our future taxpayers.

In my career of vocational education, I have contacts in Austin and all across the state that can be of great assistance to Decatur ISD. I want to help. Any questions or comments please feel free to contact me. Thanks.

Ricky Stutt

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