It’s Not Just About College

The AJC has decided to elevate the conversation about training Georgia’s high school students for the workforce.  Using the editorial board’s “Atlanta Forward” soapbox, they penned a weekend piece framing the transition from a goal that all kids would go to college into recognizing that many Georgia jobs are going unfilled due to lack of training for skilled labor:

The case has never been stronger for the benefits to be gained by refining how we school youngsters and even adults for the ever-changing world of work. That entails everything from stressing competency in applied math to honing the “soft” skill of working well as part of a team. Doing this is really a matter of dollars and cents to households, this region, state and nation.

At a forum last month on “preparing students for tomorrow’s workforce,” Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education President Stephen D. Dolinger told attendees that, “We know that good education is good economic development.”

Sound research bears out this thesis. A new study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce documents substantially greater earnings for the average person who completes some form of job-related training after high school. That’s not to devalue the long-lauded pursuit of a four-year, or even two-year, college degree. It’s simply about providing more choices and options — recognizing, for example, that some engineers drive spreadsheets and others drive trains. Both are pretty well-paid, especially when compared with those who lack marketable skills.

Students early in high school need to be given salary and benefit information for welders, electricians, and plumbers.  They also should take a look at current unemployment rates for C student recent graduates of colleges with dubious majors.  A college degree is not a guarantee of employment or financial success.  A real job skill would serve many of Georgia’s students better, and would help attract the employers here that we need.



  1. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs testified to Congress last year about not forgetting about the value of trade professions. There are plenty of good jobs available in those fields. We all want the best for our kids but we shouldn’t look down our noses on welders, electricians, and plumbers.

  2. seenbetrdayz says:

    I always joke that I’m just going to wait until garbage men are in such high demand, because everyone will have a college degree and no one will want to handle the trash.

    And when that day comes, if you want your trash taken away, I’ll do it for $100/month.

  3. Bridget says:

    I had the opportunity do both the Vocational and College Prep tracks at the same time and received both stamps on my high school diploma. It served me well. I took four years of Drafting, but ultimately got accepted to the School of Architecture.

    Osborne’s vocational classes had Media Production, Auto Repair, Welding, Childcare (yes, even providing daycare to some of the students’ children), etc. It either prepares you for the workforce/trade school or makes mechanical engineering, childhood development, or computer science make more sense as you’re getting your degree.

  4. Engineer says:

    My younger brother went to a trade school in welding for a year or so and makes more than I make with my bachelors degree. On the other hand, he works outside in the elements and works weird hours, but he enjoys it, so to each his own.

    • ted in bed says:

      I wish the Legislature would cut the budget of the board of regents by 50% (presently 1.85B/year), stop them from building mini-Tal Mahal’s, force them to fire every non-teaching staff member other than the staff needed to support teaching , end all research projects that don’t have an immediate application to solve the needs of Georgians, eliminate all degrees that also don’t have an immediate application to the needs of Georgians. We don’t need more studies about the sex lives of chimps, diversity counselors, or more women’s studies experts. Students who want to study these areas can go to Emory.

      Take the money (little less than $1B/yr) and use it to equip every high school with a wood and metal shop. Have every high school provide classes where kids can get certified in a trade like plumbing, welding, robot repair, electrical, etc. (likely needs to include weekend classes).

      Several things will happen …..

      1) Kids will graduate high school with a skill instead of dropping out.
      2) High School grads will be employable and will be paid at a higher level thus paying more in taxes.
      3) Manufacturers will relocate to Georgia because we have a steady stream of skilled workers and thus they will pay more in taxes
      4) The University system will graduate more “skilled” engineers, scientists, mathematics people, etc. because that will become their focus. These “skilled” graduates will pay more in taxes.
      5) Students heading to Engineering or other STEM schools will have hands on experience building stuff which will make them a better engineer and scientist.

      We don’t need T-SPLOST to get our economy going, we need a rationalization of how we spend our education dollars. Do we spend them on flowery boutique degrees or real world applicable training?

      That is Mike’s Education Plan (my real name is mike). For background of where I’m coming from and my background. In high school I had 3 years of wood shop and 2 years of metal shop. I earned an engineering degree and am a PE. I also have an MBA from Emory (where’s the football team?)

      , tell them to fire every diversity counsel, every researcher without real world immediate application to , and all non-tea

    • Self_Made says:

      I have a cousin who learned welding in PRISON and now makes more than a lot of college graduates I know.

      I agree with Charlie’s post (and Ted’s and Bridget’s), we need to stop the single minded governance of K-12 education that only focuses on college admission as the all-encompassing goal of a QBE.

  5. saltycracker says:

    Education delivers what we demand – which is colleges handing out degrees unrelated to opportunities. We need more societal emphasis on trade/voc schools but who wants their kid there ? That may be where the mass of future jobs are but it is not “cool”.

    Education should provide the oppportunity by requiring basic literacy and understanding in math, science, reading, comprehension, communication…..then channeling by personal choice & capabilities toward a career.

    Many GA kids & their teachers too, could not even communicate with an interviewer from Utah without speech therapy…..and dirty overalls or pants on the floor will close the door when the need is to do business across a wide spectrum of consumers…..

    What is fearful is we won’t stop until the government handles it as we demand – legislating “we know what is good for you” and begin button holing our children at a young age.

    And this is where we are going unless the parents stop enabling the childen they send to the educators. Thus driving the educators to focus on education being for themselves as employees, to retire well and as early as possible..and the average U.S. child is being left behind…..the enemy is us…..

  6. At an alternative fueled vehicles road show yesterday at Lenox Square, Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols noted that apparently welders who are able to pass a drug test and thus able to work at the nuclear reactor are in short supply. Salaries starting higher than the average history or English major graduate from UGA. Anyone looking for a job?

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