High-tech entrepreneur Andy Grove funds scholarships for vocational students at community colleges, adult ed programs and private career colleges. In an interview with the Philanthropy Roundtable, Grove talks about the importance of vocational training.
In high school, capable students are steered away from vocational education, Grove complains. In community college, completion rates are very low.
First of all, they need to work while they are in school. Second, many of them need remedial education. Third, they can’t get the required classes and counseling they need—and that was before the budgetary cuts of the current year. Partly for this reason, we also fund scholarships for private vocational training institutes.
A related issue is the capacity of a community college to take recent high school graduates and get them through the program. Students need help navigating their way. So for high school students entering community college, we directed 20 to 30 percent of our funding to support systems. I don’t know whether the system is overly complicated as compared to what it might be, or whether the students — even the ones who have earned a scholarship — are less able to stand on their own two feet than they should be. In either event, they need a lot of handholding when they get there so they don’t get lost.
Grove had hoped his program would be a model for others, but that hasn’t happened. It’s hard to fight a system that values academic degrees and discounts job training, he believes.
As a Jewish child in Hungary, Grove hid from the Nazis. At the age of 20, after the Soviets crushed the Hungarian Revolution, he fled to the U.S. City College of New York was his first step to a PhD in engineering. He became a founder of Intel.
Bernie Marcus, founder of Home Depot, and John Ratzenberger, carpenter turned actor (Cliff Clavin), have teamed up on a campaign to encourage young people to consider careers as skilled trades workers. Working with the Marcus-funded Center for America, Ratzenberger is making a documentary called Industrial Tsunami on the skilled trades.