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Build economy on foundation of skilled labor

As any construction worker will tell you, a solid foundation is the most important part of a house. So it is with a career in construction or any skilled trade in the traditional or new economy: a labor market of workers with a solid foundation of career and technical education (CTE) is the strength of a local economy.

It’s a technical job market out there, since the digital medium has transformed manufacturing-based economies to service-based. While millennials now entering the labor market have grown up with practical computer and internet technology skills, there is a growing gap in their ability to apply those skills in occupational careers.

These new workers know how to work a computer but lack the education to apply that knowledge to careers in demand in the current labor market. This skills gap is likely to get worse instead of better, since the level of education and training required for these careers will only increase over time.

High schools have continued to focus on preparing students on a single path to a college education, giving too little direction to CTE for skilled-trade careers. The skills gap is everywhere – nationally, statewide and locally.

The time to reboot is now. High schools need to emphasize CTE just as much as college prep, especially in regions like the U.P., where most students enter the labor market after high school graduation.

High schools need to enhance career counseling for students and especially for parents, who can learn how to guide their students into skilled trades.

In this area, local high schools have access to the career counseling models at the local universities and community colleges, which have a real opportunity to provide valuable benefit to local communities.

Parents and high school students need not wait for the schools to change, a process that will take time – and public investment. The local public library offers a warehouse of print, digital and online resources on skilled trades, education, job training, career counseling, certification, labor market and all the aspects involved in building a foundation of a skilled-career economy.

CTE benefits everyone, because it creates a local labor market competent in high-demand careers at the ready for any business or corporation looking to enter the local economy. It’s a silver bullet for economic development

A Daily Mining Gazette editorial

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