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Editorial: Students need to make job training connection

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 08:36 PM

Next week, five area school districts will host a joint career and technical education expo.

High school students from Cabell, Wayne, Lincoln, Mason and Lawrence counties will have a chance to explore a wide variety of viable careers and the educational paths that will prepare them for those careers. Participants not only include area colleges, universities and technical schools, but also trade unions, employers, military and law enforcement and other workforce development groups.

When you consider the challenges that face our regional economy, events such as this one are more important than ever.

They provide students with an opportunity to explore their interests and make plans for the post high-school training that is essential to getting a good job. That might be a degree program at Marshall University or Mountwest Community College, or it might be on-the-job training through the Sheet Metal Apprenticeship or the military.

But it is time to connect, because one of the biggest problems facing the economies in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio is a workforce “disconnect.”

On one hand, we have significant job opportunities and the potential for even more, but employers often find too few candidates with the necessary skills and training to do those jobs.

On the other hand, we have far too many unskilled and under-educated workers who struggle to find a job or a  job with a living wage.

That “disconnect” is both an obstacle for business and the economy and an added strain for states and communities dealing with all the social costs that poverty brings. It also feeds into our region’s view of economic opportunity.

West Virginians show the least optimism about their standard of living of any state in the union, and Kentucky and Ohio are in the bottom 10 states as well, according to a recent Gallup Poll. The Mountain State had the lowest percentage of people satisfied with their standard of living (72 percent) and the highest percentage of people who felt it was getting worse (40 percent).

That will not change without improving our workforce. That means training and retraining adult workers for today’s jobs, and making sure students finish high school and pursue the job training or degrees that prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.

When students enter the 2014 Career and Technical Education Expo on Tuesday, Feb. 25, we hope they connect those dots.



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