Talia Richman’s report in the Baltimore Sun yesterday doesn’t surprise me (“Baltimore Schools Vocational Training Programs Fail to Deliver, Report Says,” February 19). Vocational programs have been insufficient for decades. Over the past 40 years that I have run my automotive service and repair business at Columbia, I have found that candidates coming out of the professional system are inadequate and ill-prepared. Unfortunately, the education system, even in wealthy Howard County, has missed the mark because it hasn’t listened to the industries it trains candidates for. Instead, they primarily feed students at for-profit colleges like Lincoln Technology College.
If the career education system were successful, our industry would not lack 50,000 qualified technicians. I don’t know of an auto service facility in the Baltimore area that isn’t looking for a qualified or semi-qualified automotive technician.
How is that possible when these jobs bring in between $50,000 and $150,000 a year?
This is because a “career path” in high schools is ignored. Instead, we have the “University Path” for academically intelligent students and the “Professional Path” for others.
Twenty years ago, in Howard County, they looked into the matter and formed a “task force” that recommended that every student have a “vocational education” from first through twelfth grade. Instead, what happened was that only 10-20 percent of Howard County high school students ended up in a career research and development class. The teachers have done a wonderful job preparing these students for work, but they should do it during everything students.
I’ve seen underachieving students go into professional programs, which ignores the fact that in our industry we need students who have good grades in math and understanding of science. ‘English. They must also have “critical thinking skills” and be “problem solvers”.
Until our education system in Maryland prepares students for work instead of college, we will continue to fail. Upon entering secondary school, students should participate in a program of research and career development. They must follow a job in the industry that interests them, then match their education to achieve their goal. This is not about shutting out college, but about making the education they receive relevant.
Ultimately, what we need in our industry are students who are critical thinkers, mechanically inclined and want to be technicians. We can do the rest. After all, it should be the industry that trains its employees, not the local school system.
Brian England, Colombia