Educating the plumbers of tomorrow

High schools “keep pushing the college-for-all mentality,” while ignoring students who’d excel as skilled trades workers, writes Michael Mazenko, a high school English teacher.

Also on Community College Spotlight: Training or educating?

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  1. You are wonderful!! This is a subject that no one, not even FOX/CNN, have touched. We don’t need more degrees in history or psychology. We need skilled Americans that can have a trade for life.

    Might also read a book out that’s about Americans taking a stand again bad govt. It’s a thriller & I recommend it cause it may be our destiny after seeing Wisconson erupting & more states going the same way.

    Also, I suggest to the young, get a skill that can be used for life & not a 4-yr. degree that only pays $18,000 a yr. Great article.

  2. The reality is that kids who want to be plumbers are doing relatively okay. These are kids who could go to college if they wanted to–they have the cognitive ability.

    Until we start accepting that the bottom portion of the cognitive scale are kids who need five years of school o learn what they need for a job at 7-11 or a night custodian position, we won’t be doing much with voced.

  3. it is not an “either-or” plumbers can be fluent in math, writing and history.

  4. Chris,

    What does fluent in math, writing and history even mean? Does it mean able to read and understand a decent newspaper and write a coherent letter to the editor? Does it mean able to manage their own finances? Because most high schools push for “college prep for all” which goes beyond those goals. It means algebra II and calculus, biology and physics. When suffering through those classes they’re not attending others that may be more meaningful and useful to them.

  5. “Yet, for every engineer we produce, we need hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled technicians to manufacture and repair the innovations those engineers create. ”

    Have any new factories been constructed in this country in recent years? Industry can find skilled workers in other countries, and it doesn’t have to pay them U.S. wages.

  6. Cranberry: actually, yeah. Several I can think of within a 100 miles of me.

  7. Mark Roulo says:

    Pathways to Prosperity report: Yet, for every engineer we produce, we need hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled technicians to manufacture and repair the innovations those engineers create.

    I don’t know if this is relevant or not, but the folks at the BLS put the number of engineers in the US at 1.6 million.

    I’m quite certain that we do not need 160 million skilled technicians to “manufacture and repair the innovations those engineers create.”

    I think I’d be surprised if we needed even 16 million skilled technicians to support those 1.6 million engineers.

  8. Lightly Seasoned: glad to hear it. Our coastal state is losing businesses and population. Our tax and regulatory burdens are very high. If businesses start in our area (not in recent years, but some were, before 2008), at some point they shift manufacturing to other states or countries.

  9. A plumber can still have a college education, if we must decrease Fox viewership.

  10. You can’t learn to be a plumber (or an electrician or most other skilled trades) in HS. Both of these trades require a 4-5 year full time apprenticeship with a master plumber; you can’t break this down into a couple of hours a week. (You usually have to be 18 to become an apprentice, since there are also liability issues). And most apprentice programs want you to already have a hs degree, preferably with a certain amount of math, as that’s used in both fields quite a bit.

    So I’m not really sure how high schools are supposed to address this.

  11. Down with the plumbers’ unions! I do not want one cent of my tax dollars funding their bloated benefits packages!

  12. PeterW is right, you can’t become a plumber in high school. But the high school can present the skilled trades (and other trades) as a good option, on a level with college, and can be very specific in tying doing well in math to being eligible for an apprenticeship program (you have to test into them). It can also give credit for internships as a plumber’s helper or for coop education working in a plumbing supply store (you get the picture). It is arrogant beyond belief for high schools, which are supposed to serve all students, to end up telling them that they’re losers unless they enroll in college.

  13. We used to have vocational ed in our high schools, but as a result of poor preparation in elementary and middle school, many students will find themselves shut out of many rewarding careers. As a side note, a demographer in Texas has estimated by 2040 (assuming we’re here past 2012) that 30% of the population will not have a diploma or be under-educated/functionally illiterate.

    If this is Texas in 28 years, what does this bode for the rest of the United States?

  14. Several years ago, I read that a Frederick County, MD firm of cabinetmakers approached the county schools about the possibility of a cooperative program to train new workers, who would have jobs at the firm upon graduation. They were asking for 12 kids, the county was experiencing a housing boom and the starting salary after graduation would be good but they were told to forget it. Everyone must go to college.

  15. Yet another thing wrong with our public schools…sigh

  16. Republicans want to remove the “college for all” goal and replace it with “only the elite go to college – the rest of you, go to vocational school” so that the elite can stay the elite for a generation or two longer… It’s not like, after trying college, if students can’t make it they can’t fall BACK on vocational school. Just go ahead and remove even the opportunity! And use the “they’ll rack up student loans” excuse (which I’m shocked our society even forces on our promising students) to keep them from even being allowed to try… How horrible.