Is it time to admit that we may have made a terrible mistake? This is an error you don’t fully recognize for years – decades even. Yet, when a situation persists for this long, it’s hard to know where to begin fixing
When I was a kid, it was simply understood that you would go to college – and it was clear to me that the goal was to attend a four-year university and live the whole experience. To tell you the truth, I’m not exactly sure how my mindset was influenced. Was it my parents? Could it have been the counselors or my friends? It may have been the college branding that was pervasive at that time. Either way, I knew it was university or bust.
In fact, my grandparents offered me an opportunity to live with them for the first two years after high school and pay for community college during that time. That was a seriously amazing offer from people who were trying to help me with what would become years of student loans. It was an offer that I should’ve snapped up – quickly. However, I turned it down and stayed on the university path.
Although we have more college graduates than ever, we’ve also lost site of the trades and advanced manufacturing that help balance our society and economy. Have you tried to find a competent handy man, plumber or electrician? Those skills are needed and in short supply.
We have recognized our pendulum shift on education went way too far. We are working – in education and business – to bring back the skilled trades.
We need to create a more balanced focus. It shouldn’t be one way or another. In fact, my dad and grandpa were truck drivers, and they would remind me that not all children – even my own – are destined for four-year university-type careers.
There’s no easy fix for past mistakes, but we can all do our part. We must hold career options up for students and young people to consider. If we don’t, we are limiting their potential and quite possibly pushing careers that inspire no love for the work involved. In addition, it takes a toll on society. We need carpenters, handy men, plumbers and electricians every day.
Support all educational opportunities. Our community colleges and workforce development programs have taken up the mantle and are providing access to real-life education that provides skills in a fraction of the time.
I’m not saying that four-year universities aren’t valuable, but I do say it isn’t for everyone.