Gloria Bishop/Guest Column to the Chronicle
The Citrus 2020 plan did not address career and technical education (CTE), but changes brought about by various forces required it to be added to the Citrus 2030 plan.
The mere emergence of the topic as part of Citrus 2030 Vision Check is indicative of how things have changed in regard to options available to students (the theme Destiny by Choice being apropos, there being more choice in post-secondary education now).
In 1995, the emphasis was not on training in the trades. This led to the lessening of youth entering the trades. Now we face a severe shortage of tradespeople at a time when these skills are more in demand than ever, based upon the way the future of work appears to be developing. This shortage impacted Citrus County as it has grown and diversified its economic base from the original vision of 1995. The urgency is real, because we are already behind and need to close the gap.
The projected job growth is in knowledge-based, nonroutine occupations that require soft and critical thinking skills. Automation will continue and replace many low-skilled, low-wage positions. There is growth in businesses that need workers who are trained more rapidly in specific skill sets. The emerging economy doesn’t necessarily have time to wait for the completion of a four-year degree. Rapid change is inevitable in the future. It is projected that by 2030, 85% of jobs may be in occupations that do not exist today.
There is a need for increased support by the business community to hire graduates of CTE, have short-term training programs and pay them living wages. We need increased community and government support of the types of businesses that utilize workers who learn in CTE environments. Responsive, increased funding and support from state and local leaders will fund new programs currently emerging and those that will emerge.
The CTE programs are costly to start. They require equipment and experienced content instructors in order to be successful. Short-term specialized training is responsive to the needs of the emerging economy. Citrus County must invest in CTE training in order to develop a sustainable workforce that will remain here and contribute back to the community. We should strive to keep our youth here — not trapped — but able to grow and become productive members of their community so they do not leave. We need them to live, work and thrive where they grew up.
The CTE utilizes a holistic approach to training, integrating soft skills with hard skills, to create a well-rounded professional. More than ever, a high school diploma or GED credential is not enough to gain meaningful employment that pays a living wage. Globalization and fewer physical barriers in the modern workspace increase the value of portable licensures and credentials.
Businesses need to be like parents of school children and have investment in the outcome of CTE and workforce training. This can be done by building partnerships or incentivizing people to learn more and attain mastery of skills through education or credentialing.
Middle school should be more exploratory for students to learn about career options. High school should then take a more applied approach to exploration. The next step becomes the high schools working closely with post-secondary educators for seamless transition. These partnerships must be adaptive to the needs of the workforce, increase career awareness, and provide the ability to increase the number of certifications students can earn while in high school.
We accomplish these goals by expanding partnerships between business and education to provide the specific training the emerging workforce will need. This includes providing ongoing training to workers in place. These partnerships will form rapidly and must be fluid as well as highly responsive to changes in the economy.
Be a part of Citrus County’s Destiny by Design.
Withlacoochee Technical College Director Gloria Bishop chairs the Citrus 2030 Steering Committee Trade/Career and Technical Education Aspiration Subcommittee and Jeane DeFelice is with the Withlacoochee Technical College.