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GUEST COLUMN – Consider tech school for career prep

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Posted: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 2:14 pm

Whether it’s Gov. LePage or President Obama, the hot topic is jobs and the unemployment rate. Employers complain about the lack of skilled workers and college graduates complain about the lack of jobs that pay a living wage. The solution to these problems may be closer than you think.

A growing trend is for college bound students to attend a school like the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology to gain career training and a plan B to fall back on. For students not planning on attending college, vocational schools still offer training for good paying careers like they always have. It only makes sense for all students to learn a skilled trade first, and then decide whether to build on that with a college education.

Although their names have changed from vocational or “voc” schools to technology centers, their ability to give students an advantage in the workplace and in life has remained unchanged. Parents and guidance counselors once reluctant to send students to these schools now realize this career training will help them stay employed even if their college degrees fall short.

Students have heard enough recent graduates complain about high college debts, scarce and low paying jobs and in many cases prolonged unemployment or underemployment.

So what is career training and what makes the classes at a technology center so different than the traditional classes in a high school?

The difference is hands on learning and the connection to businesses and the workers already employed there. All instructors have worked in their field prior to teaching. Instead of sitting at a desk, students are mastering skills by building, machining and wiring.

Instead of simply reading about careers, they are job shadowing at local companies. Rather than listening to a teacher lecture, they listen to experienced workers who come into the classroom and talk about their careers and education. Students are also making connections and building networks that will help jumpstart their adult lives.

Maine was a pioneer in national education when it first drafted legislation to create 13 regional technical centers in the late 1960s. The Biddeford Regional Center of Technology was among that original group and continues to provide area high school students with both an alternative to and preparation for a college education.

The school has provided real world training for decades. These jobs provide good pay in a skilled career without incurring the huge debts of a college education.

Edward Driscoll teaches engineering, architecture and drafting at the Biddeford Center of Technology.

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