By Danna Elling Schultz, Research Communications, Minnesota State Senate
Jewel Pickett posed an interesting question about attending college and the worth of a college degree (Star-Gazette, 4-18-19). I think the questions we should pose now are not the worth but rather: what level of post-high school training should our children have? How can we help them attain it and to afford it?
Back when I was in high school, a four-year college degree was extremely important. If you wanted to work at a company or corporation, you needed at least a bachelor's degree, and not necessarily in a related major. 3M, Honeywell and other large Minnesota employers were looking for college grads who could think critically, could communicate well and could work well with others on team projects and ultimately become managers. You didn't always need a specific degree either. If you had an English degree and had done well in college, it was likely you could do the job, especially if you would spend a good part of your day writing memos and managing people. (To all high school students - writing is still very important. No matter what you do, you will need to craft a concise email/memo at least once a week...)
Things are different now. Almost everyday I hear from corporate and manufacturing managers and other business people that they need well-trained workers now. They don't always need workers with four-year degrees, but rather those who have two-year degrees and training certificates to work in metal fabrication or as machinists, welders, carpenters and plumbers. The health care industry is crying for workers to help care for both the young and old. Our schools are looking for quality teachers, especially in math, science and special education.
So, what can we do to help fill these needs? First, we need to help young people find their career interests and pursue post-secondary education options. Our high schools, higher education institutions and businesses need to collaborate to provide internships and apprenticeships that can help students pay for college or trade school and to get on-the-job-training. And, our high schools need to have adequate funds to provide career counselors to help our students think beyond graduation to envision a successful career to help them provide for themselves and ultimately their families.
I would love to see some Hastings businesses partner with Inver Hills, Dakota County Tech and Hastings High School to help students find the right career. And it doesn't have to be only a career/technical partnership. How about a gateway into teaching and teacher preparation? Working at our local medical clinic or hospital to explore a career in medicine or the health care field? Make a connection with Cranky Ape? Set up an apprenticeship as a cook in one of our local restaurants to gain experience before culinary school?
The state of Minnesota provides workforce development scholarships for businesses and students that collaborate with higher education institutions. It helps students pay tuition and brings in the trained workers our businesses need right now.
Post-secondary education isn't just a four-year college degree - although that is a real key to success for those that pursue it. There are great options out there if we know how to work with others and get the partnerships going that we need. And then we can all say that yes, college/post-high school training was worth it!