29 March 2010 01:03 PM

Post High School Middle Skills

by Dr. Rick

We’re hearing a lot lately about the shortage of workers for jobs requiring “middle skills,” the talents and aptitudes that require more than a high school diploma but not necessarily a college degree.  They’re often called the “next generation” of workers.


The National Skills Coalition that our country will need hundreds of thousands of skilled police officers, firefighters, medical technicians, health care providers, electricians, mechanics, heating/ventilation/air conditioning technicians, automotive workers, manufacturers, transportation workers, office assistants, and more.  These high-skill jobs increasingly require certificates or some other credential – more than a high school diploma, less than a college degree.  Some employers say they cannot keep up with the demand.


This speaks to the need for some sort of post-high school education or job training.  If you’re a high school drop-out, you’re pretty much relegated to low end jobs, if you can find any job. Even if you’re a high school graduate, you can have a difficult time in today’s economy with today’s needs.  Educated, trained, and skilled workers are in increasingly high demand.  Become one.


As a long-time teacher of high school students, I know that an academic, four-year college or university is not the answer for all students.  (I know this from my own family’s experience, as well.)  Many young learners want to work with their hands, are fascinated and motivated by non-classroom experiences, or are just ready to hit the world of work.  Good for them.  But they also must be prepared.


Trade schools and community colleges may be just the ticket.


Let’s begin by recognizing the importance – the necessity – of post-high school learning.  You can’t drop out.  That’s just dumb.  And you need training beyond high school if you want that good, satisfying, rewarding job.  This is your future we’re talking about.  So, with some seriousness, look at trade schools, community colleges, apprenticeship programs, and other opportunities that appeal to you.


Here are some thoughts, a little advice, and some questions to ask as you go on your journey.

  1. Do your homework.  If you’re considering a training experience, rather than a four-year institution, check out the facility first.  Is it state approved?  Is it accredited?  This is important when you complete the program.  Future employers will be interested.

  2. Ask about financial aid.  Ask whether the school will provide financial aid.  This could be an important factor for many students.

  3. Check out the curriculum.  What will you be learning?  Check out the curriculum.  Is it interesting to you?  Will it prepare you for the work force?  Does it meet your interests and needs?

  4. Find out about placement services.  Does the school provide you with a job after you complete the program?  Does it help you with the job-hunting process?

  5. Interview current students and recent grads.  Talk to the folks who are in the program now and to recent completers.  They will have the best, most pragmatic, and honest answers to your questions.  What was their experience?  Did their experience prepare them?  Did it meet their expectations?

There are many resources you can use.  Here are two.  The U.S. Department of Education has a good website that can direct you. Also, the RWM Vocational School Database, which lists private post-secondary schools in all fifty states, can be a useful tool.


It’s just plain common sense that if you want a good, profitable, fulfilling job that allows you to use your interests and talents, that provides for increasing your skills, and lets your mind grow, too, you’re going to have to put in some time now – doing “due diligence” on your future.  Talk to adults you admire, employers in your field of interest, and others you want to emulate.  Ask them about their successes.  Most will tell you they worked for it.  Now it’s your turn.  Go for it!




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