Educating the plumbers of tomorrow

Our schools “keep pushing the college-for-all mentality,” while ignoring students who’d excel as skilled trades workers, writes Michael Mazenko, a high school English teacher, in the Denver Post.  Students need experiential learning as well as academics, he argues.

Despite Harvard’s Pathways to Prosperity report, which calls for offering career education options in high school, educators and political leaders “never talk about producing more plumbers or IT technicians or dental hygienists or physical therapists, just more scientists and engineers.”

Yet, for every engineer we produce, we need hundreds, if not thousands, of skilled technicians to manufacture and repair the innovations those engineers create.

. . . Of the millions of jobs that will be created in the next decade, 30 percent of them will not require a bachelor’s degree. Many positions such as paralegals, health care technicians, and tech support workers need only certificates and associate degrees.

In a recent Florida study, community college graduates with an occupational associate degree or certificate earned more on average than state university graduates with bachelor’s degrees.

Education critics regularly tout the performance of Finland in international test scores, but they do little to promote the Finnish system. As many as 70 percent of Finnish students enter career training after their sophomore year of high school. Elementary schools in Finland teach skills such as carpentry alongside the multiplication tables. And Finnish students only take one standardized test in their school career — it’s at the end of high school to determine university qualification. Yet, despite emphasizing skill-based education, Finland remains on the cutting edge in technology and is home to five of the world’s top global technology corporations.

Colorado needs to “move beyond basic academic skills learned at desks and measured by standardized tests,” writes Mazenko, who wants to make Pathways to Prosperity required reading for every education reformer in Colorado.

POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON February 25, 2011

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Miriam K. Freedman

I agree! Besides that Harvard study, check out http://www.bluecollarand, Joe Lamacchia’s website.

The push of college for all ignores the fact that there are many many ways to succeed in life and contribute to our country. College is not the only path. Let us promote student learning in areas where students have strengths and show interest, not just in areas of academics where many students show weakness.

After all, success comes to those to harness their strengths!

Miriam K. Freedman

The website above is

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