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Technical education is the way out

“You gotta know something that somebody else doesn’t know. And liberal arts colleges are having some problems because simply, as I say, writing about the beauty of the daffodils in the spring doesn’t get you a job…”

David Ponitz, WCC President, 1965-1975

For the last few days, I’ve been making the case for technical education as a way out of our unfolding economic crisis. Historically, we have turned to skilled labor to recover from past economic disasters. We won’t find a different path back to success this time, either. And WCC can’t succeed when its president believes it might be possible (or desirable) to teach welding online.

The WCC administration must do more than simply give lip service to the value of technical education. It must question transfer programs that produce four-year graduates only 10% of the time.

WCC should actively recruit students into its technical programs. It could offer generous scholarships, grants, academic support, and other assistance (free college?) as enticements to enter these careers. Technical programs should carefully map to demonstrably high local or regional demand careers.

Technical education is not cheap. It requires specialized, dedicated laboratory space, equipment and supplies to adequately train future workers. It also requires highly skilled, qualified instructors. WCC should prioritize the funding of technical education programs, because highly employable technical graduates provide the best, most immediate return to the economy.

Granted, some students enroll specifically to transfer to a four-year institution. For these students, WCC must have ongoing, honest conversations with them about the limited practical value of a Liberal Arts transfer degree. Further, WCC is obliged to ensure that they receive high quality academic counseling, create an academic plan for themselves, and take coursework that will rigorously prepare them to complete a four-year degree elsewhere.

Photo Credit: CRMG- UC-Davis , via Flickr