Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is College the Only Path to a Rewarding Career?

I attended a conference in Chicago today titled Mobilizing to Attract Skilled Workers to High Tech Manufacturing. This was a Program of Swiss Business Hub (USA), the Trade Commissions of Switzerland to the United States.

The speakers talked about the critical skills shortage that will face the US and other countries around the world as their populations shrink over the next two decades and as the baby boomer retire. Dr. Ed Gordon's book the 2010 Meltdown provides an excellent overview of this impending crisis.

What was provoking is that many of these speakers talked as though there were a conspiracy of higher education and government leaders to channel youth from high school into college, while ignoring and under investing in high paid careers in manufacturing. I hope to write more about this later this week, but to start you thinking, here's an essay titled, A Career in Toolmaking or Machining Technologies: The Right Choice for Students, Community and Country, that I hope you'll read .

At the same time, there was also a clear message that high schools, colleges and industry need to be working together on workforce development goals, for the good of the country. I remember a time around 1998 when I was in the office of Gerry Chico, the Chairman of the Chicago Board of Education. On his wall were 10 steps to school reform. Step 6 was "prepare youth for careers". I said to Chico, shouldn't that be steps 1, 2 and 3? He grabbed his assistant excitedly and said "He gets it! He gets it!"

Unfortunately public education leaders and policy makers still don't seem to get it.

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