We must discard our assumption that everybody needs college. America has a glut of college graduates and record levels of student debt. More than 50 percent of people under 25 were unemployed or underemployed last year. More young people should choose technical/vocational training during or after high school. Jobs requiring post-high school education have more than doubled since 1970, but the fastest-growing yet unmet need is for technical/vocational training and other professional certification.
Twenty-seven percent of workers with these credentials earn more than the average bachelor's graduate. Other countries have pioneered high school apprenticeship programs, where some school days are spent working in areas such as construction, IT, health care, agriculture or engineering. Students learn practical skills that elucidate professional goals and classroom relevance. This also addresses the disinterest and disengagement that students too often feel regarding education.
Some local high schools have partnered with the National Academy Foundation, offering career-focused curriculum culminating in an internship. Throughout the country similar programs each boast their students' statistics in graduation rates, employment and earning power. We need to change the work ethic among students and provide practical alternatives to college. Parents should push for apprenticeship programs. Recently, state Sen. David Holt previewed his “Parent Trigger” bill, to enable parents to petition for sweeping educational reform, inspired by the movie “Won't Back Down.” The educational status quo is no longer working. We must apply our pioneering spirit and our will to succeed in fixing it.
Nathaniel Harding, Oklahoma City
Harding is vice president of operations for Harding Shelton Inc., an Oklahoma City-based oil and gas company