Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

April 30, 2013

CONFER: Choosing a trade over college, part II

Niagara Gazette — When I was in high school some 20-plus years ago, BOCES was considered a dumping ground; those who pursued the vocational arts were looked at – by school administrators, parents, and peers alike — as sub-par students, kids who weren’t bright enough to hack the standard path of high school education, let alone the rigors of college. Times have changed and vocational education has become more acceptable to mainstream education but, still, a lot of today’s parents who were educated during that era still carry some long-held (and totally unacceptable) disdain for the program.

I would argue that today’s BOCES students – as well as those of my time – are some of the very brightest that we have. It takes a special collection of intelligence, common sense, and learning ability to excel in the breadth of knowledge and skills required by machining, mechanics, nursing, computers and the like.

They are also some of the brightest because they understand the future and their role in it.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, a lot of their college-interested friends have a troublesome future ahead of them because the job market has seen a saturation of college educated workers and it cannot accommodate them, leading to underemployment, unemployment and the unfortunate situation in which college-educated adults face a lower standard of living than their college-educated parents before them. On the other hand, teens and young adults who develop vocational skills see immediate rewards, long-term gain, and stability through even the worst economies because they are marketable, in demand, and in relatively low supply.

A perfect example would be machinists. Their prospects are overwhelming: Numerous studies have found that upwards of a half-million manufacturing jobs across the United States remain unfilled due to the lack of qualified candidates. As for being “qualified,” a college degree doesn’t cut it – but a certificate from a trade school does.

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Bob Confer
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