Vocational Education Offers Solutions for U.S. Skills Gap

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Across the U.S., there are seven million open jobs, according to the November 2018 Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mike Rowe, star of TV’s Dirty Jobs, earlier this year addressed a Congressional committee on education and the workforce with a straightforward appeal in response to all the unfilled jobs.

“Americans still view a career in the trades as some kind of ‘vocational consolation prize,’ Rowe said. “It’s a bias as misguided as any other prejudice with us today, and it poses a clear and present danger to our country’s overall economic security.”

He added that the skills gap will never close “if we keep telling people a four-year degree is their only hope of being successful.”

Each year, 3.5 million students graduate American high schools in pursuit of their portion of the American dream. Slightly less than 70 percent of them enroll in college (according to BLS data).

Dean Riddell, of Yukon, agrees with Rowe that vocational education offers the solution.

Riddell, an Oklahoma City mortgage lender, joined Canadian Valley Technology Center’s board of education earlier this year. Riddell said he believes CV Tech can help steer students toward the education path best suited for them.


That path might lead straight to college. Or it might be a path that leads to technical education. It can be both. Roughly a third of CV Tech graduates attend college.

Riddell and other school board members hope students and their parents understand that college and technical education do not have to be an either-or proposition.

“CV Tech offers different avenues that teach people how to do something that may become their passion,” Riddell said. “I’m convinced if people will take the time to see the programs Canadian Valley has to offer that it could be life-changing for them.”

Longtime board member Jimmie Vickrey, a Minco farmer, said he is convinced CV Tech offers something for everyone.

“I used to be under the pre-conceived notion that CV Tech is ‘this’ or ‘that,” Vickrey said. “I used to think it was for a select few.”

Christy Stanley, a Real Estate broker who lives in Yukon, came to the CV Tech school board two years ago. She said far too many people jump to the conclusion that everybody should go straight to college after high school graduation.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I’m not sure other parents know Career Tech education can work hand in hand with a college education,” she said. “I wish my kids had gone to Career Tech prior to going to college.”

Still, others might choose CV Tech simply for the project-based learning aspect, said board member and Mustang stay-at-home mom, Penny Jones.

“Through my experience with five children of my own, I have discovered that not all children learn alike, making Career Tech’s diverse learning practices attractive to so many,” Jones said.


Travis Posey joined CV Tech’s board three years ago. An executive vice president at HSI Sensing in Chickasha, Posey said he believes many students choose CV Tech to enhance their education and save valuable time.

“The school equips students with technical life skills that they can use to start a career immediately if they choose to do so,” Posey said. “When I graduated college, I just assumed the world was going to give me a job.

“I think a lot of students assume jobs will come looking for them, but that’s not how it works. Students with skills can hop right into a career, which gets them started on a really good track in life.”

CV Tech Superintendent Dr. Lutts, an educator for 27 years, said CV Tech is doing its part to help fill the skills gap. Last year, Canadian Valley ranked second overall among 29 technology centers statewide with over 29,000 total enrollments, according to information supplied by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technical Education. This includes full-time programs, short-term classes and customized training for businesses and industries.

“The facts prove that vocational education holds the keys to a thriving Oklahoma and a thriving nation,” Lutts said. “Career Tech is regarded by many as Oklahoma’s best-kept secret. CV Tech has college-prep programs, such as Biomedical Sciences and Pre-Engineering.

“We are also committed to the evolving labor market by providing world-class educational opportunities within the manufacturing industry, the construction industry and the health care industry, to name a few. Our mission will always be to prepare students to succeed in the workforce.”

CV Tech’s programs are tuition-free for anybody under age 24, who also live inside district boundaries. For a list of all full-time and short-term options, visit cvtech.edu.


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