Thursday, July 06, 2006

Work, Work, Work!

I've been thinking (yeah, I know--you can smell the smoke from where you are) recently about employment and young people and folks between stages in life and skills and learning (TO is summer-job hunting at the moment, and running out of time...). And I thought, "What if?" What if every one learned a trade. occupation, skill, whatever you want to call it, as a requirement for graduating from high school?

I'm thinking of preparation for jobs that are more than burger-flipping, but can be easily updated or refreshed. Work like pet grooming, manicurist, medical aide, medical transcriptionist, vet tech, or bank teller. Worthwhile work, that needs some skill and therefore pays better than your usual just-out-of-school job, but that doesn't require years of training or skills that need constant updating. Of course any occupation has changes over time that require skills retraining, but it seems to me that these sorts of occupations are easier to catch up on skills. I may be wrong and I'd be glad to be corrected.

My point, though, is that everyone, at some point in their lives, could use a skill like that--short term or long term. Think of the recent college grad who doesn't have a job in their chosen field--if she had training as a dog groomer, for example, she can at least pay the rent and groceries while she's looking for that perfect art history position. Or a divorcee who hasn't worked outside the home in ten years because she was home with the kids; or the retiree who finds that his Social Security and former company's retirement benefits don't quite cover the cost of living. Or the just-above-entry-level employee who's laid off after three years. Even if the stay-at-home mom hasn't worked as a teller (say) in ten years, she still had those skills at one point, knows the ins and outs of banking--she's got a leg up on those of us who haven't ever done that work.

And who knows--some of those high school kids getting that training may decide that they are better suited for working as a medical transcriptionist than trying to get through college; or may use that training to pay for college. It would at least offer an alternative.

I know there are many high schools that offer such a program to students who want it. TO's school system has a high school that is devoted to the trades, and every year the students build a house from the ground up, including pouring the foundation, framing, plumbing, wiring, HVAC, appliance installation, interior decoration and landscaping.

My idea is different in that such training would be required. Yes, I know the kids already have a ton to learn--and I think they should also have to have more classes in music and art than they are required to have right now, but that's another post--but somehow room should be made for this. Perhaps in the summer? Most schools around the world--and many systems in the US--are on a year-round schedule.

I like the idea that everyone would have a skill of some kind that they could fall back on. I know that I have often wished I had such a skill. The closest I come is the 18 months I spent as a hospital ward clerk right after I was married. But that was so long ago that I have no idea how much things are the same or different anymore in that line of work.

The implementation of this would be tricky, I grant. But I think a lot of people would benefit, down the road.

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