February 3, 2010
There is a dangerous notion that a classical academic education is the only suitable road for all students, regardless of inclination, ability, or personal passion in other directions. I’m not sure where this notion first arose, but it is counterproductive, harmful to some very talented young people, and falls into the discredited one-size-fits-all category we all know does not work with human beings of any age.
Our public schools certainly should provide a strong and sound academic education to all, but we must do so with the knowledge that some students’ passions and skills lie in technical areas and career paths that will carry them in a different direction.
I have said before, and I believe to my core, that our schools must serve those who will be architects and those who will use their hands to turn blueprints into structures of steel and stone. We must serve the engineers who will design ever-more-efficient and safer automobiles, and those who will build them and repair them. We must provide an excellent education to those who will research agricultural production methods and those who will do the planting and the reaping. Our homes must be well designed and energy-efficient, and we will also need those to wire them and plumb them well. Though the future will hold high tech jobs in fields we cannot yet imagine it will also support a service industry for those who still find dignity in working with their hands. We need their skills as well as any others.
In recognition of this important mission of our schools, The U.S. House of representatives passed HR 930, recognizing February as National Career and Technical Education Month. Even in these most polarized of times, the resolution passed 380-0. It is the first time in history that the federal government has used its power to recognize the critical importance of career and technical education in preparing a well-educated and skilled workforce in America. It also encouraged educators, counselors, and administrators to promote career and technical education as an option for students.
Our office has been committed to this goal since its inception. We continue to promote new programs and strengthen career and technical education throughout our county, particularly through the highly successful Regional Occupational Programs (ROP), which are the vehicles for delivering career and technical education. The best part is that we do this in full partnership with a variety of community enterprises.
Frank Schipper, of Schipper Construction, and his wife, Leslie Meadowcroft-Schipper, are good examples of full partners in this effort. Frank speaks at career day presentations and provides internships and job opportunities for students involved in the building trades. Leslie founded Tradart Foundation, a nonprofit that teaches local students about job opportunities in a variety of fields. Tradart has representation from a number of local construction trade business owners, such as Doug Ford, Don Gordon, and Michael Crookston, who also make career day presentations that are supremely helpful and informative. In fact, Don and Doug invited some 25 local trades people to a meeting coordinated by my office that trained presenters on how to be prepared to speak to students throughout the county for Career Days and individual classroom presentations. That’s truly going the extra mile.
Partners in Education also works on a variety of fronts to support collaborations between schools, students, and businesses.
ROPs meet with every industry represented by the voluminous career and technical course offerings each year through mandated Advisory Committee Meetings. We recognize the importance of the local businesses and industries that support our school programs in the community, including banking, engineering, automotive, construction, business, graphic arts, health, communications, and even the local chambers of commerce. ROPs meet with every industry represented by the voluminous career and technical course offerings each year through mandated Advisory Committee Meetings. It is here that business partners provide input on curriculum, trends, career preparation and more. Many offer internships that have proven life-altering.
Every high school in Santa Barbara County has ROP and Career Technical Education offerings, taught by teachers of the County Education Office, and we are very proud of the programs and the teachers who provide them.
These efforts, in partnership with the business community, bear fruit in ways too numerous to count, and provide job skills and training that can literally save lives. As we celebrate Career and Technical Education Month, we salute all those who work so hard in this most important area.