Crook County High School, educational institutions all across the U.S., and Congress, we're addressing you. Please listen.
Last week's "Welding Wire" newsletter featured an item from News/Talk 1110 KBND, Bend, Ore., about a high school metal and welding class that likely will be cut in next year's budget. The Oregon State champs in the Skills USA Competition came from this class.
Teacher Dan Holland is concerned because the metal and welding skills the kids learn are applicable for many of the jobs that stimulus money is providing. He reportedly said that "if the [school district] sees community support to keep the class, there is a good chance that it will stay. "Welding Wire" readers throughout the U.S. and Canada agree with Holland and support retaining vocational-technical (voc-tech) programs.
In the current economy, organizations everywhere are being forced to cut budgets. Education is no exception. During budget cuts earlier in this decade, many voc-tech programs were eliminated. At that time, declining enrollment was cited as one reason. Now, as secondary schools and colleges trim their budgets, voc-tech programs should be preserved.
Today, WSBTV in Atlanta reported that Georgia's technical colleges have seen a 15 percent spike in enrollment over this time last year as laid-off workers have returned to school to learn other trades.
Technical College of Georgia spokesperson Mike Light said enrollment at the state's 33 technical colleges jumped to 90,000 this spring, up more than 12,000 students from last year. Ten of the campuses reported growth of 20 percent or more in that time period.
According to the report, this is the second highest enrollment in the system's history. The highest was in 2003 when technical colleges enrolled more than 91,000 students. Ironically, it was in 2003 that 75 percent of metal fabricating professionals responding to a "Fabricating Update" survey said that voc-tech programs in their areas of the county had been cut.
Since 2003, many programs have been restored. But these programs once again are facing the chopping block as educational institutions attempt to cut their budgets. "Welding Wire" readers want them to reconsider cutting voc-tech classes.
Here's what Andrew Knarvik, president of the Iron League of Chicago, a trustee on the local Iron Workers Apprentice School, and a construction industry professional for more than 35 years had to say, "The inner-city high school dropout rates are very high, and the alternatives are becoming fewer and fewer every year. The problem, nationwide, is that schools are mainly interested in academic studies. All students are not destined to attend college or even gain employment at a desk job. Young people who are not geared in that direction become bored and lose interest and end up with no diploma of any kind. Years ago in the U.S., and still in many European countries, after middle school, a youth decided to continue with academics or get a trade school diploma. This kept them interested and aided [them in finding] gainful employment or getting into an apprenticeship program. Currently, young men and women cannot get into most trade apprenticeship programs without a high school diploma or a GED. And many of the applicants are ill-prepared for the trades.
"Please keep after your Congressmen to not only continue funding for trade educations but to increase the funds. Properly prepared and gainfully employed people make better citizens."
Welding engineer, George Baldree, who is "on a holy one-man crusade to get as many schools in the U.S. to start welding programs anywhere" said, "I started on this holy crusade the day after the [article] 'Where have all the Welders Gone' appeared in the Wall Street Journal.
"My company allows me to share our training and cost information. The object is to have the students to be able to pass the AWS and ASME tests as the entry point into the profession. We supply the school with specifications and sizes for shop and class room, detailed tool lists, consumable costs, and quantities required per student per year and how much to budget yearly to keep the program going. We also provide information about off-the-shelf state-certified welding texts, and if you need an instructor, send us a certified teacher willing to learn and we will teach them to weld and how to teach welding. The final product is a welder who, the day after graduation, can walk in to an employer's shop and pass the required AWS and ASME tests. The employers will have to instruct them in everything else via on the job training (OJT). We teach the school district to be self-sufficient and budget appropriately. Don't rely on donations; pay to get the students trained. Donations are for special projects only. To date, we have 12 programs going in the Rio Grande Valley in high school, college, and commercial training.
"The win, win, win, wins for everybody are: the students are provided with a skill that can put them to work in good paying jobs immediately; the employer gets entry-level people who can pass the welding tests; the school system gets a state-certified program with state and federal funds flowing; and the community gets a training infrastructure that attracts industries. This is a broad vision and needs to be presented to the schools in this fashion. Helps to get over the WIIFM (what's in it for me) and turns in into WIIGTDFU (what is it going to do for us)."
Baldree is involved in the American Welding Society, Rio Grande Valley Section 507 Welding – The Gold Collar Career Day event intended to help businesses recruit welders. If you want more information, e-mail me and I"ll forward a flyer to you.
Other readers also spoke passionately in support of voc-tech programs. Some of their comments will be included in the May issue of "Welding Wire."
Let me leave you with comments from a welding instructor at a community college in Ohio, who wrote, "Vocational education is the sacrificial lamb of this current economy. How will we survive this current crisis? The answer is simple, yet it will take great effort to win this battle. We & will have to work harder than ever to show our worth. We will need to be ever-vigilant in our dialogue with state leaders and state educational leaders. Join our fight to keep the trades skills alive in our high schools and community colleges!!!"
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