This morning’s NPR news coverage included a Larry Abramson story entitled “Job Training Makes Difference for High School Grads.” His basic point was that if the job market is tough in general for all workers, it’s particularly difficult for those who lack a college education, after which he goes on to point out that “…the best bet for high school students in the long run is to get some college experience,” and that “…teens can dramatically improve their shot at a job by getting training in high school.” It all boils down to education, where those at the bottom of the “education acquired” scale are not only at the bottom of most pay scales, but also occupy unskilled positions that are getting phased out of our post-industrial economy.
So what should teens do, besides keep college as an option on their future planning lists? Abramson cites studies that show teens who participate in quality vocational programs “…have a much better chance of finding work.” Although technical schools may sometimes be viewed as institutions designed for or targeted at individuals who aren’t necessarily college-bound, the best programs still require their students to earn a regular diploma and emphasize traditional education alongside craft or vocational training. A principal at a vocational high schools interviewed for the story even goes on to observe that she’s “…met so many your people nowadays who have a four-year college degree, and they end up going back to the community college, because that college will teach them a marketable skill.”
What this tells me, and what most parents already hope for their college-bound or college-age offspring, is that picking a substantial major with a well-defined job or career track on the other side of the diploma is key in a market like the present one. And just about anybody can take a tip from the strategy that the kids at a vocational school adopt if they can’t immediately find a job upon graduation or earning a certificate: they take extra classes at the local community college, and keep building up a collection of intellectual and training-based tools to help them build upon their set of bankable skills and knowledge. Even if this doesn’t lead to a degree, it still adds to their resumes and lists of accomplishments when they finally do interview for a position, and hopefully helps to counter the inevitable questions about skills, knowledge, and passion for work that all entry-level candidates must answer.