Vocational education isn’t what it used to be.
For one thing, say the words “vo-tech” to someone who works or advocates in the field and you will get some serious stink eye. It’s CTE — career and technical education, thank you very much.
But there are a lot of other differences. Sure, carpenters are still advised to measure twice and cut once, but all of the various job skills have changed a lot as “technical” has developed more technology.
New tools and updated methods are not just changing the way people do the jobs that keep our cars on the roads and our water flowing through the pipes. They have to change the way future electricians and drafters and masons are learning.
That translates to more expensive equipment. A hammer costs less than a computer, after all. But increased equipment and technology expenses mean it costs more to provide CTE than it used to.
Which is why Apollo-Ridge High School has been seeing more investment in its shop programs.
A CNC router — think of it like a desktop printer that is carving wood instead of laying ink on paper — is the kind of thing that might be used by a pro woodworker. It is also the kind of cutting-edge tool that could capture the imagination of a student and turn woodworking from hobby to career.
“Sadly, the cost of the equipment is extremely high, in addition to the cost of the consumables,” Principal Dan Consuegra said.
The school leans on donations from industry like Arconix and nonprofits like the Apollo-Ridge Education Foundation.
It is commendable the school is finding creative ways to fill a need, purchasing about $75,000 in new equipment over two years, including that nifty router.
But it also points to a greater responsibility to prioritize the needs of CTE in high schools.
We can postulate what the future of many college majors will be over time, but plumbing will always be important, houses will always need to be built and electricity will need to buzz through the wires. How all of that happens will change, however.
What could change is whether students are not only offered the opportunity to enter those fields, but made to feel intrigued and excited to do so. That’s an investment in the future we can’t afford not to make.