I jokingly discuss how my wife has a masters in philosophy (religious studies) and she will likely never make more than $30K/year for the foreseeable future. But an individual that receives a twelve-month certification as a machinist can get a starting salary in the 40s. I love my wife and she’s very happy doing what she loves and teaching at a local college has provided her the flexibility to raise our children at home, which is priceless. The point is when did this notion of negativity surface with students interested in attending a technical college?

I attended the PINC Conference USA a few weeks ago and a speaker focusing her talk on students with autism discussed the disadvantages we place on students by removing career exploration in a variety of fields because it doesn’t fit into our societies expectations of what qualifies as a great career. Essentially if it’s not STEM, then it’s not important. I’m not discounting the importance of STEP education because its essential we are training students for the jobs of the future but there are so many other industries with good paying jobs having difficulty filling positions.

That’s why I believe it’s necessary to allow students from elementary to secondary education explore a variety of industries to discover if it’s the career pathway they may be interested in. In my short time volunteering and working in education, there seems to be a significant approach to making sure students decided their career goals by the time their in middle school. This means eliminating the “wheel” in high school to focus on CTE (Career Technical Education) programs. I think CTE programs are great for students that enjoy the type of education they’re receiving in these programs. But if students are simply in these programs because schools need to meet a quota then we’re missing the opportunity to inspire students to follow their passions and not set them up for failure.

That’s why I’m proposing a greater focused on making sure students have the opportunity to spend more time shadowing employers, speaking with industry executives, understanding the careers (both good and bad) before selecting a possible program in college. I switched my college degree program three times before settling on business and I was an adult. I can’t imagine what’s going through a teenagers mind when going through a program they’re really not very interested in.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to prepare the workforce of tomorrow. This includes the students, teachers, administration, community partners, parents, and businesses in our communities. Let’s provide students with realistic expectations and provide them with the resources to be successful. Let’s face it. Not everyone is going to be a doctor or an engineer. We still need great guitar teachers, plumbers, restaurant owners, barbers, actors, first responders and so much more.