Home » A Prickly Issue

…and hard to eradicate.

crown of thorns starfish

Our friends and colleagues at the National Skills Coalition, which our Executive Director Grant Shmelzer is heavily involved with, published a timely and thought provoking article by Rachel Unruh “Election Reflection: did a strong skills training message help flip the seats in 2018 mid terms?”

I encourage you to read it. I also have some thoughts on it.

IEC Chesapeake (IECC) has blogged about and around this issue a lot for the past three years. Our points largely have been that:

  • Trades do a lousy job of telling their own story.
  • “Civilians” have little idea how much classroom and hands on time go into apprenticeship and earning a Journeyman’s- let alone Masters.
  • Both are four year “degrees”, if you will; in other words both require four years of supervised study to attain the certification. It also requires the apprentices to be working full time while pursuing certification. While many college students work while in school, it is NOT a requirement. To put this another way- what Fred Astaire did while dancing is incredible, but his partner, Ginger Rogers, was doing the same thing-BACKWARDS- and in heels.
  • Apprentices are dancing backwards and in heels compared to many college students.

One of the important points raised in the National Skills Coalition article is that voting results may well point to the populous saying, “Money can’t just go to college educations”. College for all was really not a universal answer. I, for one, don’t think any education should be “free”. If money is not involved on some level, I believe community service should be. I believe the student should be invested, one way or another, in both the education and experience of securing it.

I agree that nationally we seem to be telegraphing that Federal funds made available for higher education should not be tagged as “college”. Higher education should include all licensed and certified training programs that result in professional certification putting the candidate in the workforce.

Colleges and universities cannot claim to do this. Apprenticeships CAN.

Two things seem to be needed as we move forward politically and economically in the United States.

One, that higher education become inclusive of apprenticeships and colleges- not just colleges.

Two, that in doing so, we can effect a cultural shift that begins to recognize the time, effort, and hard work that goes into apprenticeships- electrical, HVAC, plumbing, and all trades.

It’s a prickly issue; we have spent decades moving our students toward colleges, white collars, and tall glass buildings to secure a cubicle in. We have looked down our collective noses at trades- even though I guarantee most people cannot do the math of a third year electrical Journeyman candidate.

I used to tell my kids, when things got scary, to remember the Titanic. Today you would not find a vessel without life boats and safety gear; no one could remove them to make the ship “prettier”. Hard lesson learned.

This is an educational Titanic moment in our country. We can make a better design and improve our economy- for all.

Stand with the trades.

IECC does.

Jenny Boone Business Development
IEC Chesapeake/IECC