Go to College or Don’t Go to College? (The Skills Gap)

A question we as parents and our children struggle with at some time in our life, or do we? I would challenge you that we don’t! We hear every day President Obama and other leaders in our country repeat over and over we need our kids to get a college education. Despite the fact that not every student is college material we think because of what we’re being indoctrinated with that’s the path our kids need to take. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy into the message!

What have we gotten so far for this national message of everyone needs to go to college?

  1. A Trillion dollars in student debt.
  2. Graduates that need a 6 figure salary or a job that will pay off their student debt as part of the salary package and won’t take a entry level job to work their way up because it’s beneath them.
  3. 3 million skilled trade jobs that are unfilled.

These are pretty ugly figures, but all our national leaders want to do is throw money at the trillion dollar debt and keep the message the same. If you’re in the college campus business it’s a great message and you even have the President of the United States as your free advertiser. Do you know what college campuses drill into our kids? “When you graduate with our degree you will get a high paying job”. How horrible is it to our children’s psyche when they find out the “will” is most definitely a “maybe”.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with a college education and all of my children did go to college, but as a parent I didn’t let them go for some far out degree that wouldn’t help them in the world we live in. What really irks me though is that every one of them is starting out their life with a huge debt! Debt that I never had because I knew at the age of 14 what I wanted to do in life and it didn’t require college and even if my parents would have said go to college I wouldn’t have gone.

Every generation has always wanted better for their children than what they had it, and mine and your generation is no different. We also for the most part have discouraged our children from following in our path or they themselves watching how hard we work for our living want nothing to do with it. Somehow we need to find a better balance to that and the “you must go to college” message.

So where do I think we need to go from here? Do I think with today’s current highly technical cars we can get heavily into on the job training on our own? The answer is a huge NO! We need talented young people to be pushed toward skills trade starting in the middle schools and if the counselors won’t change their message we need to force them to! We need kids who show a talent for working with their hands, are good with computers, have great math skills, and just want to know how a piece of machinery works to be shown a path through a trades school and not just Vo-Techs that won’t saddle them with huge debt when their ready to start their careers. We in the industry have to stop focusing on the “Negatives” and start being sales people for our trade!

This has now become my new crusade and hopefully I can count on the membership to help in it. Get involved with your local schools and Vo-Techs. Give them this message even if they don’t want to hear it. Universal Technical Institute has stated the enrollment was down by nearly 12 percent in the second quarter of 2013. We need to change that and I think AASP-PA needs to lead this fight by providing scholarships to the sons and daughters of our membership to those students who are leaning toward our trade and if we don’t get enough applicants through our membership then we need to expand it further. We can’t afford to sit around and discuss the problems of a “qualified tech shortage” and not take a positive step shortage.

My goal is to have something in place by the end of this upcoming school year. During the upcoming board meetings I’ll be discussing my ideas for us to discuss.

Written by AASP-PA