Special to the Chronicle - Editorial Section
THE ISSUE: United States faces a shortage of tradespeople.
OUR OPINION: Community business and education partnerships are vital to meet the requirements of market and worker demands.
The population of the world and of the United States is growing exponentially. As the world ebbs closer to 8 billion, and the United States nears 350 million, the creation of more jobs will be vital to sustain comfortable human life.
Over the years, trades education and apprenticeships have declined in student popularity, but not in market demand, leading to a shortage of tradespeople in the U.S. In facing that shortcoming, it is of the utmost importance that we as a community strive to entice students, businesses and education institutions to deeply support and participate in career and technical education (CTE).
In a recent guest column, Withlacoochee Technical College (WTC) Director Gloria Bishop, chair of the Citrus 2030 Steering Committee Trade/Career and Technical Education Aspiration Subcommittee, demonstrates the emphasis on training in the trades needed to close the gap between jobs available and workers needed.
The Citrus 2020 plan did not address CTE, but was added to the Citrus 2030 Vision Check as recognition of how things have locally changed since 1995 (with more choice in post-secondary education). The Citrus 2030 Vision Check will look deeply into CTE, outlining the pathways to effectively support the trades, increase incentives to participate in programs and train a workforce ready for the future of employment.
Those with trade skills are in more demand than ever. Bishop says the urgency is real, and that Citrus is already behind in closing the gap.
These days, a high school diploma or GED is not adequate enough to gain employment that pays a decent living wage, while high-level degrees often leave graduates in a lifetime of debt. Trade education has the ability to provide students with a respectably paying job, with little to no debt upon graduation. And, more and more jobs are requiring specific skill sets quicker than graduates can complete a four-year degree.
Bishop says the business community needs to increasingly support the hiring of graduates of CTE, while providing additional training/certification and higher living wages to keep workers up-to-date with current standards and out of poverty. The needs are out there, but the partnerships to ensure that students are being rewarded to participate in the CTE programs are not solid enough.
Small businesses operating on limited budgets do not always have the fiscal means to provide this incentive, so the community should step up to provide this support. We suggest the creation of a foundation to sponsor small businesses looking to hire CTE graduates, keep them current on certifications and training, while providing monetary incentive to participate in the CTE programs. Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce could spearhead this initiative to ensure that as we grow as a county, all of our employment bases are covered.
Investing in CTE training and job sustainability means more people graduating, and staying in Citrus County to work and contribute to the community. What’s not to like?