Citing the 98% school-to-work success rate at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, State Representative Jerry Knowles in Pennsylvania pushed his fellow legislators this week to consider a funding package to support additional trade and technical schools. Across the country and to the North, Governor Sean Parnell addressed the need for more programs in technical training, to create skilled electricians and plumbers in Alaska, to keep students in-state and create hirable graduates.
These states are the latest to join Ohio, Georgia and even the National government in their efforts to increase funding to vocational education programs. Many legislators point to the need for skilled workers in the labor market and hope to increase access to the training and technical education.
States are also hoping to increase funding to legitimize technical schools as well, eliminating for-profit institutions that are in the business of making money. They want to make sure electricians, plumbers, and other technical workers can graduate with reputable education and experience.
With unemployment among graduates of traditional education so high, the value given to a Bachelors over a technical program is being questioned by educators and legislators. Students of technical programs face a different employment future. The fields are highly recruited and sometimes offer apprenticeships as part of training. Moreover, the last of those trained in the last push for vocational education decades ago are retiring, and there is a large opening for professionals who have trained through technical schools.
Take for instance, electrical workers and engineers. The number of electricians set to retire in the next ten years will greatly improve employment opportunities for new graduates of technical programs. Additionally, when the population increases and more construction occurs to accommodate that population, more electricians are needed in the market. States are seeking to ensure that they have trained electricians, as well as engineers, surveyors and construction professionals, to fulfill that growing demand.