Ohio’s Future Foundation, chaired by former Congressman Jim Renacci, hosted a forum last week on the stigmas and misconceptions surrounding vocational education programs.
The forum was hosted at Pioneer Career and Technology Center, whose superintendent said that skilled welders who graduate from the school can “easily make six figures just a few years out of high school.”
“They’re hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead in just a few years,” said Greg Nickoli, who noted that graduates enter the workforce making $18 to $20 an hour.
“One of the big misconceptions is that you’re going to go right in to work and it’s probably going to be a low-paying job. And I can tell you there’s nothing further from the truth,” he continued. “I would venture to say that most college graduates would jump at a chance to make $60,000 a year.”
He also stressed that vo-ed graduates aren’t burdened with the debt that comes from a traditional four-year degree. That’s why Renacci and Ohio’s Future Foundation are spreading the word about vocational education opportunities in Ohio.
“It’s something we believe needs to be prioritized in our state. We need to make sure that our high schools can continue to push for vo-tech education starting at a very young age—sixth, seventh, and eighth grade—and making sure those individuals have the opportunity to see other opportunities other than college,” Renacci said.
He pointed out that just 29 kids out of every 1,300 enter vo-tech fields, calling it a “serious problem” for the state of Ohio.
“I think the kids hear things. I think we’ve pushed college for too long, and that’s really a shame. You know, I personally went to vocation school and that was back in the 80’s and that, to me, kind of saved my life,” said Lisa Woods, a member of the Ohio Board of Education. “So kids need to know that that’s a very viable option.”
Tyler Shinaberry, owner of the company EPIK, a custom business automation solution company, said that young people have a hard time “looking past the attractiveness or the romance” of the college experience.
“Many of us look at our junior and senior years as one of the best times of our lives before we go on into adulthood, and you want me to do something that requires responsibility?” he said.
In a recent article for Ohio’s Future Foundation, however, Shinaberry claimed that “Ohio’s prosperity will come through vo-ed in our schools.”
“Ohio’s future and its potential for prosperity will be dictated by its ability to align in-demand hard and soft workforce skill-sets to its current and future needs,” he wrote.
The full forum from Ohio’s Future Foundation can be watched below:
– – –
Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Ohio Future Foundation Panel” by Ohio Future Foundation Panel.