Porcelli: The Other Side of Education 4/19

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

CTE & the Crisis in the Economy

Today, other than inflation, the most talked about economic topic is the Skilled Worker Shortage… a situation that’s growing and rapidly becoming a crisis in every industry.

If you doubt that we are running out of skilled workers, labor department statistics show that the majority of highly skilled and experienced trade workers are my fellow baby boomers, and we are retiring at three times the rate that new entry level workers are being trained to replace us. Many of us are even working well past normal retirement ages because of the high demand for our skills.

Imagine a store where for every three containers of milk sold, only one was restocked on the shelves. How long before the store runs out of milk? We could substitute other drinks for the missing milk, but there are no substitutes for skilled workers. Robots will never be able to replace most tradesmen. Who will? Where will young tradesmen come from? – CTE!

When 3,000 welders, plumbers, mechanics, or any other trade workers retire, if there are only 1,000 new ones to take their places – that is a growing crisis! How long can this continue before the systems those workers build and maintain begin to fail? How long before our roads are clogged by stalled vehicles, riders are stranded in stuck subway and elevator cars, planes begin falling from the sky, or our military runs out of working weapons? Will we continue to be the country others want to move to?

The current fear of a looming recession will seem trivial if we run out of the plumbers, electricians, and the other workers needed to keep our municipal water & sewer systems functioning. Without those critical systems, society will rapidly fail.

What’s the alternative to such a catastrophic future? How was America victorious in World War II? Some of our parents and grandparents rapidly became the workers needed to produce and maintain the weapons of war our troops needed. Remember, as this month honoring women began, this column featured the contributions of the women skilled trade workers represented by “Rosie-the-Riveter.”

Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, our economy shifted gears into war production, and many women were rapidly trained to replace the male assembly-line workers who joined the military.

The solution to our current skilled worker shortage is an immediate increase in Career & Technical Education programs nationwide. Like the crash-course type technical training WWII Rossie’s received, modern expanded CTE programs could train our replacements.

In addition to more CTE programs, schools must also begin to promote the value of those programs to students. Unlike the present guidance system that “encourages” all students to enter expensive college programs they may not succeed in; schools must offer training that best matches students’ abilities and interests, develops their talents, and amplifies their potential for career success.

Schools: Provide more & better CTE!

Students: Click on the academic and career path that best fits your needs!


Academic & Trade Education are Two Sides of a Coin.

This column explores the impact of CTE programs on students, society, and the economy.

Mike Porcelli: life-long mechanic, adjunct professor, and host of Autolab Radio, is committed to restoring trade education in schools before it’s too late. https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-porcelli-master-mechanic-allasecerts/ 

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