“Hurricane Gray” is coming our way and we’re not ready.  Over the next 15 years, every day 10,000 baby boomers will retire adding to the number of skilled job vacancies and increasing the burden on working adults.

A recent policy report released by our advocacy partner, the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd) suggests the need for a policy response to improve career readiness.

With more workers retiring and job openings soaring, there’s a bigger need now, more than ever, to ensure the students of today and taxpayers of tomorrow are given the academic knowledge, and taught the 21st century skills needed to succeed in life to secure jobs and help tackle the changes that lie ahead. Couple this issue with the student loan crisis and we’re looking at a big economical issue in America.

A recent NPR segment reached a similar conclusion about Millennials and careers in the trades.

One great way to combat the number of baby boomers retiring and Millennials graduating is to expand apprenticeships and technical training opportunities in high school to give graduates access to high-paying and high skilled jobs.

In the coming years, we will need more workers trained in the trades. But, not enough of our schools are preparing students for careers and vocational training. A recent visit to an innovative career center provided more examples of lucrative technical training pathways that are alternative to a traditional 4 year degree.

Students at RAMTEC, a school in Ohio that I visited last month already have training, certification and job offers in robotics without having to incur thousands in student loan debt. Two career centers Tom recently visited in Texas and Kansas are preparing students for jobs of the future by graduating students with a year of college credit.

While in the mean time there is an abundance of millennials up to their ears in student loan debt who are unable to find a job that allows them to afford the payments. Imagine if every school or district had a technical school available to those students interested in the trades. They could obtain college credit in high school and leave with their vocational training done, or with a pathway to finishing that training.

We’re all use to hearing about the “averages” and how the average salary made by those graduating with a four year degree is $5,000 more than those without a degree. But those averages are not always accurate, and the issue with that number, Anthony Carnevale, Director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce says during the NPR broadcast, is that, people who work at retail stores or fast food chains get lumped in with master carpenters and electricians. “You can get a particular skill in a particular field and make more than a college graduate,” he says. For example, he shared that the average electrician makes $5,000 a year more than the average college graduate, without empty pockets due to student loan debt.

The bi-partisan reauthorization of the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) last summer is a great step forward towards the job training that needs to be done. Through the legislation tens of millions of job seekers and workers will have the opportunity to connect with good jobs and acquire the skills and credentials. But, comprehensive approaches to job training need to begin at the secondary and K-6 levels.

While there isn’t enough great schools like RAMTEC and others we’ve visited around the nation, I encourage you to do some searching and see what’s around you. A recent search of my own uncovered three public school districts within an hour of my home that offer technical training through skills centers for their students. They’re on my list to visit next!

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