The push is on to give more attention, resources to vocational education

WHAT DOES does a candidate for Florida governor have in common with an advocate for builders and contractors?

Each wants education officials in Florida and across the nation — and Americans as a whole — to think again about the traditional high school-to-college pathway to higher education and, eventually, to gainful employment.

Each would like to see a much greater emphasis placed — in policies, dollars, offerings, and opportunities — on vocational education.

Adam Putnam of Bartow, a Republican candidate for Florida governor this year, and Mike Glavin, the director of Workforce Policy and Programs for Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), both have a column in the current issue of Building Central Florida magazine. The magazine is produced by the Orlando-based Central Florida Chapter of ABC.

Putnam offers these key points:

“As a state, we’ll need 2 million more jobs over the next decade to accommodate Florida’s population growth. Of the 100 fastest growing jobs in Florida, more than half of them will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year degree. … Recently, I released my ‘Florida Jobs First Agenda,’ which details my plan to modernize career training to include 21st-century skills like coding, advanced manufacturing and health care. I plan to bring businesses to the table in developing curriculum for vocational and technical education so students will learn the skills they’ll need for real jobs. And I will build on existing apprenticeship programs so more students can ‘earn while they learn’ a modern-day trade.”

Glavin’s take includes this:

“… (T)he conventional wisdom for the nation’s education system has been that the only path to prosperity can be found by simply “getting into college” or “going to college,” rather than deliberately attending college with the intent of completing a degree and adding value to the economy. This is a mistake that has caused a drag on the nation’s economic potential by marginalizing high-value skills and careers while plunging entire generations of Americans into crippling debt. … The proposition of jumping directly into college is the only choice given to students who want a post-secondary credential and a chance at a successful lifestyle. Meanwhile, U.S. roads and bridges are in desperate need of repair, construction employers are desperate for young talent and thousands of high-earning careers are going unfilled. … Skills education programs in the construction industry … combine value-driven, skills-based education, on-the-job learning, workplace experience, and great wages.”

In a related item, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans (62 percent) agree that apprenticeships — or “earn while learning” vocational opportunities—make people more employable than going to college. The finding is from the latest American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted online by The Harris Poll.

According to the poll results, about seven in 10 U.S. adults say that learning a specific trade is better for finding a job than a bachelor’s degree (68 percent) and that college degrees aren’t worth as much as they used to be (69 percent). A majority disagree that completing an apprenticeship will limit one’s future employment options (71 percent), and nine out of 10 Americans (94 percent) say that apprenticeships are helpful in leading to a new career.

Combine the Putnam and Glavin columns with the survey results, and there just might be some food for thought here.

If you would like to read the columns in their entirety, click over to the online version of the Building Central Florida magazine (July-August 2018 issue). (Scroll down in the PDF file to pages 3 and 25.) The article about the American Staffing Association Workforce Monitor survey can be found here.

A note to readers: The management of Tucker Paving, Inc., is supporting current Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in his campaign to be the next governor of Florida.