It takes multiple facets of industry and education to train and educate the workforce.
Secondary education has been experiencing some financial pain in recent years. Having invited industry to the proverbial stakeholder table, the dialogue between these entities in our community has again been reopened. This isn’t the first time these elements have sat across the table to discuss deficiencies in the workforce/education process; history shows this has taken place multiple times in the past. Whenever education and industry meet and exchange dialogue, good things are the result.
Education vs. Training
It is important to recognize the role of public education—and more specifically, the difference between “education” and “training.” At first, it may be difficult to distinguish between these different facets of learning—especially in today’s school system—but the differences are significant.
Training is undertaken in the hopes of gaining a specific skill. Generally, this skill will make you more employable. Education is undertaken in the hopes of furthering your individual knowledge and developing your intellect. While a highly-educated person is often more employable, education is not about getting a job.
Career and Technical Education (CTE) is the place in secondary education where career courses and core academics speak to the “education” aspect. The fact that CTE provides specific skill training—like CNA, OSHA 10-Hour Safety, and CPR/First Aid credentialing—demonstrates the certification, or training, side. But more importantly, CTE in secondary education is where career exploration takes place.
CTE was established in our public educational system back in 1917, with the congressional signing of the Smith-Hughes Act. Since those early years, it has expanded to include not only agriculture, but also business, family and consumer science, health occupations, and technology and engineering education. Courses within these five content areas provide students with foundational knowledge of what careers in these areas would include, in addition to testing their aptitude.
Sampling Career Paths
Too often, public education is misrepresented as a resource for training workforce skills, rather than a place for students to explore and expand their aptitude, skillsets and knowledge base about various career paths. Training pertains to the proprietary processes industry has adopted to be the most efficient in producing their goods. With that said, secondary education is traditionally more foundational in nature, while colleges and trade schools offer more workforce training opportunities.
In the last 18+ years, P.E.R.F.E.C.T. (Peoria Educational Region For Employment and Career Training), along with PALM/TRICON (Peoria Area Labor & Management Council/Tri-County Construction Labor-Management Council) and the West Central Illinois Building And Construction Trades Council, has offered career exploration events. Two popular programs include an Eighth Grade Construction Expo held in September, and a Construction Work-Based Learning program—both of which give students a sampling of what these career paths can offer.
The Construction Work-Based Learning course is set up so high school students spend two hours each day during the first semester with hands-on, STEM-related projects. Each week, they visit a different trades training center, covering carpenters, electricians, operators, plumbers, steamfitters, bricklayers, cement masons, sheet metal workers and ironworkers. They also receive two credentials: OSHA 10-Hour Safety and CPR-First Aid. In the second semester, students choose a trade of their interest for a three-month internship with a contractor. These internships are vital, as they show firsthand the working environment of these career paths—educating students about the skills needed for future careers.
It is critical to note that training our future workforce is paramount for society to be progressive. It takes multiple facets of industry and education to successfully train and educate our new and upcoming workforce. To learn more about our programs, visit perfectpeoria.com. iBi
Chris Kendall is director of the Peoria Educational Region For Employment and Career Training (P.E.R.F.E.C.T.).