America is moving towards an event horizon that could be as disruptive to our national economy as the retirement of the space program was to our local one. In the case of the space program, leaders on the Space Coast made a series of historic decisions that have produced an economic renaissance in the area.
The economic disruptor that now is looming for our collective future is America’s skilled manufacturing and trade work force’s aging into retirement and that the pipeline to fill that vacuum is more trickle than geyser.
Exacerbating the situation, most parents and students have been told for generations that the path to satisfying, high paying careers is a one-way street through higher education.
Contrary to this assumption, skilled manufacturing and trade jobs are intellectually challenging, technically advanced and, as a general rule, pay very well. Additionally, many only require certifications that can be earned in a relatively short span of time, allowing quicker access to a career pathway without the time commitment of college degrees and the bankroll necessary to pay for it.
More than half of college graduates are drowning in debt. Student loans average $38,000 per borrower. According to one financial assistance website.
“Student loan debt is the second largest class of consumer debt behind mortgage debt.”
For students who enjoy learning how to make and build things rather than studying about others who made and built things, the Brevard County Public Schools (BCPS) – Career & Technical Education (CTE) program has been nothing short of a portal to a brave new world: a place where talents and desires are celebrated and developed. So many interests are represented, from Building and Construction Technologies to Digital Design to Aviation Assembly and Fabrication to Automotive Maintenance or HVAC, among many others.
A Bridge to Dreams
To add real world experience to the CTE training offered in interactive classrooms, the district initiated an internship program using their own offices, facilities, and personnel providing a platform for knowledge to meet application. With facilities and transportation capabilities that serve over 70,000 students from Titusville to Palm Bay, the opportunities are clear.
Elizabeth (Anne) Everly serves the students and district as the pre-apprenticeship/student intern coordinator for the CTE program at BPS after leading the mentor-based Take Stock In Children program for a number of years.
“When I became involved with plant operations and maintenance, the director [Janice Scholz) wanted to leverage staff and facilities to fulfill our educational mission in skilled areas like electrical, A/C, carpentry and plumbing. Janice helped get the program going and since then, it has expanded thanks to Dr. Michael Miller, the transportation director, and assistant transportation director Glen Enstice to our transportation resources,” she said.
The program offers qualifying students a summer paid internship during their junior year of high school. If they are successful, they are allowed to work three hours per day during their senior year while earning high school credit.
“Kids often need help finding direction and purpose. Career Tech Ed is an awesome way for them to get experience and useful certifications while they are going to high school,” Everly said.
Since the program was launched five years ago, a number of students have gone straight from high school to employment at local automotive dealerships, general contractors and even public and private organizations such as Blue Origin and others.
AS THEY SEE IT
When I was in high school, I loved ‘shop.’ I enjoyed building things and the way my parents reacted when I brought home something I made. That is what caused me to want to become a teacher. Kids in these programs are there because they want to be there and so they embrace the discipline that it involves.
—CTE Resource Teacher, Jim Johnson
I was a principal before coming to this job. Many of the students in my school I knew were not going to go to college. The trades were their means of fulfillment and financial advancement. When I was approached about it, my immediate response was, ‘Yes!’
—BPS Transportation Director, Dr. Michael Miller
We probably have one of the most highly-skilled and safety-conscious transportation maintenance workforces anywhere. Think about it, we are responsible to safely transport thousands of students every day. This environment is a wonderful window for students to understand what we do, and often, when jobs open up, they are first to apply.
—BPS Transportation Assistant Director, Glen Enstice
I started out trying to understand how my remote-control cars worked as a kid and the fascination never left me. I went to Heritage High School specifically because a neighbor of mine, whom I worked on cars with, recommended the automotive program there. I plan on transitioning from this program to the Aviation Maintenance program at Eastern Florida State College and eventually I would like to be a pilot.
—BCPS student, Kevin Florez