Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who Is In Charge?

I found this article in a recent email and it struck me that maybe it would be a good one at the start of the school year.  In essence it poses the question of who is calling the shots at home: you or your child?  Tim Elmore puts some perspective to this question and proposes how we can do a better job as parents.  There's some good advice here!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

What Does It Look Like For Jobs In The Future?

When you get down to it, the purpose of high school, and then college, is to prepare a person for a job or a career.  That is the fundamental purpose of school!  Over the past six years we have stressed to parents and students that they need to take a very honest look at career possibilities with an open mind, and yet in some respects this seems to fall on deaf ears as we have seen little difference with our students and their pursuits once they graduate from high school.  There have been a few exceptions, but it seems that students and parents are ignoring a very important sector of our labor force that is screaming to us that they need workers.  That is the skilled labor sector, a part of our economy in Iowa with a great deal of opportunity.  In fact, we have local and regional employers that cannot find enough skilled workers, and because of that, they are paying wages and providing benefits that equal if not exceed some of the white-collar occupations commonly filled by four-year college graduates.  These are good jobs and yet few students from our school are looking in that direction!

It would appear that "skilled labor" has a negative connotation, and perhaps there is a belief that this kind of work is beneath kids that are finishing high school.  The truth is that these jobs are not beneath anyone, and the reality is that there is a need for people to fill these jobs.  And more important, these jobs are indicative of what the future job market is going to be.  The reason for that is because each year there are fewer and fewer jobs that require routine cognitive work (a lot of which requires a four-year diploma) or manual labor.  Unless they are location-dependent, most of these jobs are being outsourced to foreign countries with cheaper labor, or replaced by computers and other machines.  Yet when you look at the post-graduation plans of our students we see an overwhelming number of students opting to attend a four year college and a steady number of graduates entering the workforce out of high school.  Yes, we have a good percentage of students who attend a community college, but when asking them their intention, more often than not it is to get an A.A. degree and then transfer to a four-year institution.  

Both of my kids have opted to go the four-year route, but not without me putting pro’s and con’s, as well as data in front of them.  I am worried about their employability, and would have no concern if they were to change their mind and pursue a different direction, though one has already burnt through a lot of money for three years toward a business degree and a Spanish minor!  Despite their choices I cannot help but believe that over the course of their life there will be some significant re-training or even a change in careers.  I have faith that they have the fundamental skills to make those shifts, and believe they will land on their feet.  But, it would have been easier in some respects had they followed the path for the highly skilled jobs that are in such high demand.

Our Project Lead The Way courses are designed to give a student a start on the kind of skills that highly skilled workers will need.  We have partnered with a number of local businesses and industry, and they have offered many opportunities for our students to take a closer look at these kinds of occupations.  Problem solvers and people that can work with technology are in demand.  Another field wide open is health care.  We have the good fortune to have a hospital, clinic, dentists and optometrists in our community as well as a number of other institutions the need health care professionals. There is a constant need for employees, and it is critical for the future of our community that they can find quality workers.

The video below was shown a few years back at a workshop I attended.  It would be worth your time to take the time to watch it.  I would also advise you to take some time and sit down with your son or daughter and really take a look at resources that are available to see what future prospects look like.  

Humans Need Not Apply