In the late 1980s, St. Joseph schools, businesses, and service organizations cooperated to launch a program called Profit in Education.
Participating employers have committed to making a high school diploma or GED one of the requirements for employment with that particular company. It was one of many aspects of PIE, and it worked.
Graduation rates have increased and businesses have been able to benefit from a more educated workforce. It should be noted that graduates also benefited from this program, as a high school diploma offered more options for those wishing to change careers or pursue additional training later in life.
However, there was an inherent flaw with PIE, a flaw that became apparent as the economy and the workplace, particularly the manufacturing workplace, began to evolve.
PIE implied that a high school diploma was all you needed for a good job. Get one and you’re set.
This could have been the case when St. Joseph’s economy was dominated by large factories where a high school diploma would get you an in-game job for the next 30 years.
Those days are over and they are not coming back, despite what you hear during the election campaign.
Now, we recognize that a high school diploma is a starting point and not an end in itself. You still need it, but you better have a plan for something beyond that.
For many, this has meant pursuing a four-year college degree, a path that is statistically proven to provide a ticket to the middle class.
But a four-year college isn’t for everyone. For those who have gone this route, applying for student loan forgiveness shows how some are beginning to question the benefits when weighed against the costs.
There is another path for students who want a rewarding career with a good salary and plenty of job opportunities. Vocational programs and community colleges provide hands-on learning in trades, specialized manufacturing, and health professions.
These activities were once despised, but they should no longer be. These programs provide the job skills employers need, often at a fraction of what a four-year college requires. Manufacturers, in particular, require skilled workers in areas such as robotics, precision welding and machining.
Last week, St. Joseph’s School District held a signing ceremony for 27 students who will train as apprentices at local businesses in welding, machining, information technology, industrial maintenance and automotive repair. These students, from nearly 20 local high schools, attend classes at the Hillyard Technical Center.
Just like those who go on to four-year college, these students should be celebrated for having a plan to develop career skills that improve their future prospects and benefit the entire workforce.