Industry News Skills Development

Vocational education offers another path to a prosperous future

I was extremely pleased to see the Aug. 17 article about the expanded vocational educational facilities at Moriarty High School.

Superintendent Tom Sullivan and the Moriarty-Edgewood School District Board of Education are to be commended for taking this much-needed step.

Nationally, vocational programs have been disappearing from our public schools at an alarming rate over the past 20 years until they no longer even exist in some school districts. Our public educational systems and state bureaucrats throughout the country have, unfortunately, adopted the belief that every student needs to be prepared for a college education and the value of learning job skills seems to have been deemed to no longer be important.

This is a tremendous mistake. While I would encourage every student who has the desire to go on for a college or university education to do so, I know from 50 years as an educator and educational consultant that not every student has that desire. Many of our students want to develop practical work skills such as welding, construction, auto mechanics, electrical work and so forth. Unfortunately, our educational system relegates programs in these areas as being inferior to academics.

Not having these programs available often results in a lack of motivation for students, which often leads to poor attendance, then poor grades and, in far too many cases, dropping out of school altogether. Vocational programs offer students the opportunity to learn a skill that will lead to a successful and fulfilling career, which many times can lead to these students earning more than their teachers, principals and superintendents. At the same time, who do we call when we need work done that we, ourselves, do not have the skills to do?

But these programs are not limited to just those who wish to make a career in one of these skilled areas. They are also available to those who wish to learn independent life skills they will be able to use throughout their lives, regardless of their professions.

Another factor that often goes unnoticed by the general public is the disciplinary problems that have increased proportionately with the decrease in vocational programs. In no way do I suggest this is the primary cause in the growth in disciplinary problems over the years, but those close to the problem will agree it is certainly one of the contributing factors.

Congratulations also to Central New Mexico Community College for collaborating and partnering with the district in delivering these programs to MESD students. Partnerships between higher education and K-12 public education can provide both entities with outstanding programs in many areas, not just vocational. With the current financial crisis facing education in New Mexico today these partnerships can provide an effective and cost-efficient method of providing needed educational services to our students. Common use of facilities and personnel, rather than a duplication of services should be a no-brainer. After all, do not higher education and K-12 public education have the same basic purpose for existing: student success?

The ability of high school students to receive dual credit at the college or university level is a tremendous incentive for them to continue their education and complete, at least, an AA degree or occupational certification. In many districts students can receive their AA degree and high school diploma at the same time. Just think of the money these students and their families can save by taking advantage of this opportunity. It also means that those students are ready, or very close to being ready, to enter the work-force with a certificate or AA degree upon graduation from high school.

MESD has long been recognized, for several reasons, as one of the premier districts in the state. This most recent effort merely amplifies that reputation. It is also one of the most comprehensive districts in the state with its outstanding fine arts and vocational educational programs.

Dan Patterson of Sandia Park is a retired public school teacher, coach, high school principal, central office administrator and superintendent. He has spent the last 10 years as an educational consultant in education, management and human resources, along with conducting superintendents searches for the New Mexico School Boards Association. He is currently president of the Eastern New Mexico University Board of Regents and the immediate past president of the New Mexico Higher Education Regents’ Consortium (HERC).

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