Schools don't invest enough in vocational training
Feb 21, 2019 | 12:00 PM
Talia Richman’s report in yesterday’s Baltimore Sun does not come as a surprise to me (“Baltimore schools' vocational programs fail to live up to promise, report says,” Feb. 19). Vocational programs have fallen short for decades. In the last 40 years that I have run my automotive service and repair business in Columbia, I have found the candidates coming out of the vocational system are inadequate and poorly prepared. Sadly, the education system even in affluent Howard County has missed the mark because they have failed to listen to the industries they are training candidates for. Instead, they mainly feed students into the for profit colleges like Lincoln Technology College.
If the career education system was a success our industry would not be 50,000 skilled technicians short. I don’t know of an automotive service facility in the Baltimore area that is not looking for a skilled, or a semi-skilled automotive technician.
How is this possible when these jobs pay $50,000 to $150,000 a year?
It’s because a “career pathway” in high schools is ignored. Instead we have the “college pathway” for the academically smart students and the “vocational pathway” for the rest.
Twenty years ago in Howard County they looked into this and formed a “task force” that recommended that every student should have “career education” from first to twelfth grade. Instead what happened was only 10 percent to 20 percent of students in Howard County high schools ended up in a career research and development class. The teachers have done an outstanding job of preparing these students for work, but they should be doing this for all students.
I have seen students that are not achieving academic success directed to vocational programs, which ignores the fact that in our industry we need students that have high grades in math and English comprehension skills. They should also have “critical thinking skills” and be “problem solvers.”
Until our Maryland education system prepares students for work rather than for college, then we are going to continue to fail. As soon as students enter high school they should be in an career research and development program. They should job shadow in the industry they are interested in and then match their education to achieve their goal. This is not to exclude college, but to make the education they receive relevant.
In the end, what we need in our industry is students that are critical thinkers, mechanically inclined and want to be technicians. We can do the rest. After all, it should be the industry that trains their employees and not the local school system.