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Expanding training in important trades [Editorial]

Applications and Research Laboratory
Applications and Research Laboratory

The county’s ideas incubator high school, the Applications and Research Laboratory, is branching out in the next school year to offer courses in agricultural science and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

In high-achieving Howard County, where nine out of 10 students move on to higher education after receiving a high school diploma, promoting career tracks in farming and building mechanical systems might seem out of place.

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It shouldn’t.

By offering two years of study for juniors and seniors in more than a dozen academies – including biotechnology, cybersecurity, automotive technology, visual communications systems and health – the school is providing vital, hands-on training for a new crop of front-line workers for careers in the trades and basic and applied sciences.

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In fact, school systems across the country are accelerating training in what was once known as vo-tech, or vocational-technical classes, and rejecting the dogma that a four-year college degree, on even a master’s, is essential for success.

Beginning in January, incoming high school juniors and seniors can enroll in agricultural science and HVAC courses at the Applications and Research Laboratory.

There is nothing dishonorable about technical or manual work.

Today’s HVAC technicians have to master many skills – from troubleshooting computers that control furnaces and air conditioners, to the basics of plumbing, electrical, carpentry and metal fabrication. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics projects double-digit growth in the demand for HVAC technicians in the next 10 years and some industry groups say six-figure salaries are not uncommon in metropolitan areas.

In some cases, what’s learned in the Ellicott City school’s classrooms, labs and workshops can also count toward credits for students planning to transfer to colleges and universities or enter certification or apprenticeship programs.

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By maintaining its focus on a dozen high-demand careers, recalibrating its courses to cover future professional disciplines and staying true to its mission of “extraordinary learning through experience,” the Applications and Research Laboratory will remain relevant for many generations. It’s an unheralded gem in the county’s school system.

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