Porcelli: The Other Side of Education (10/27)

CTE Shop Class: Now It’s High-Tech

Think CTE is not important? Think again.

By Mike Porcelli

For several decades I’ve served on trade education advisory boards, where I’ve witnessed the reduction and often destruction of most of those programs. Several no longer exist. It’s a great disservice to students who cannot benefit from the training once provided to previous graduates.

In recent years, I’ve been a member of DOE advisory commissions for the automotive, engineering and construction programs. These commissions, comprised of industry leaders, educators and administrators, advise DOE on ways to improve CTE programs in their respective industries.

Members of these commissions donate their time and expertise to help ensure the programs deliver the type of training needed to properly prepare students to fill the millions of skilled jobs that are growing faster than we can fill them.

We do so in the hope that school systems can increase CTE programs to the level needed to serve the diverse educational needs of students and produce graduates with skills needed by industry.

I commend DOE for creating the commissions and hope our efforts can increase and improve these programs.

Sadly, in conversations with other commission members last week, I learned of the loss of more CTE programs.

Two related how their schools scrapped hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment when they replaced their automotive programs with a graphics department — a mistake that I hope can soon be corrected.

Not because art is not an important educational path for students with the aptitude for it, but because, when we can’t fill the jobs vacated by retiring qualified mechanics, our entire transportation system will literally crash.

While art offers pleasure for people, mechanics provide life-saving essential services that are the backbone of industrial life. Schools must understand this and set their priorities accordingly.

Another commission member related how NASA actively recruits to fill jobs in every trade category, because they can’t launch a single mission without them.

To demonstrate the importance of trade jobs to the space program: no astronaut has ever left this earth — and returned safely — without the work of the mechanics and other trade workers who build and maintain their ships.

Like the skilled worker shortage in every industry, if NASA cannot find enough trade workers, the entire space program will fall behind.

School boards and administrators who have disparaged, disrespected and defunded CTE programs in the past should ask astronauts, airline pilots, truck drivers and ship captains how much their lives depend on the skills their maintenance crews acquired in CTE programs.

They should also ask themselves how safe they will feel flying in planes or riding in cars or elevators that are serviced by technicians who lack the essential skills they could have learned in the CTE programs they’ve disbanded.

Schools must provide CTE programs that produce enough technicians to maintain every type of vehicle — from baby carriages to spaceships.

All our lives depend on it.

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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