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Career Readiness is More Than College Prep

If you follow Kentucky politics, you can learn a lot from the “message points” that candidates and their handlers are so prone to offer. For example, in the race for governor, there is a great deal of talk about job creation. Assuming they have done their homework sufficiently, we can offer a few “did you know” questions. For example:

Did you know that Kentucky is the third leading producer of automobiles in the United States behind only Michigan and Ohio? Perhaps so. That’s a pretty well-documented fact. But did you know that we’re the second leading producer of parts and supplies for the aerospace and aviation industries? And we are the leading producer of aluminum products, which obviously helps support the other two.

Those are good things, right? Here is a bullet point from one candidate that is a little more sobering. Kentucky is the number one state in the country for the number of jobs that will be lost to technology, alternative or renewable energy sources, and advanced manufacturing.

So how do we take full advantage of the former facts and dodge the latter? One means is through career readiness training. If your perception of manufacturing is still linked to “I Love Lucy” and the candy assembly line or Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, you are sorely off base (and I am showing my age).

Young men and women today can have successful and fulfilling careers without going to college. There, I said it. Not everyone is a candidate for a traditional four-year college degree.

I’m not picking on anyone at all; only trying to make a point. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average annual salary for an accountant is $69,000; the average for a licensed plumber is $54,000. An accountant must have a Bachelor’s degree and at some point, likely work on a CPA designation. The plumber requires a certificate program and apprenticeship to be on a license track. I’ll let you compare the costs, but will assure you that the difference is significant.

Simply put, there is nothing wrong with the trades and vocational education. Career readiness is more than college prep. When was the last time you woke in the middle of the night screaming for an accountant to fix your financial spreadsheet as opposed to screaming for a plumber to fix a burst pipe?

We all have our gifts, and if this community is to grow and thrive, it will take everyone tapping into the full potential of those gifts.

The days of chasing smokestacks are over; so, too, are the days of chasing dead-end, low-wage jobs and calling it economic development.

Danville has long been lauded as the City of Firsts, so here’s my challenge. Regardless of who is (re)elected Governor and regardless of who is named as Economic Development Secretary, let us be the first community in this state to assign a level of importance and respect to our children who pursue a trade because they will ultimately determine the economic viability of Kentucky in the future.

As always, Go Ads!


This article originally appeared in the May 14, 2019 edition of The Advocate-Messenger.

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