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There are students in Rochester who are looking for a meaningful career in the trades, but because of a giant barrier, they are unable to learn the skills necessary to get one.
That barrier is the absence of a state-recognized career and technical education diploma.
It isn’t because we aren’t trying. We recently helped to create legislation for an additional New York State high school diploma—a CTE Regents diploma—which is working its way through the Legislature. Passage of the legislation and implementation of the program will expand academic options for our students and be an equally important benefit for the economy of our region.
As we know, the number of middle-skills jobs in Rochester is growing at an exponential rate. Some of the area’s major projects—including Midtown revitalization, College Town at the University of Rochester and the Rochester City School District’s facilities modernization project—have created and will create hundreds of opportunities for employment in the construction industry over the next decade.
So what’s the problem?
Studies by Monroe Community College and other institutions show a serious lack of skilled workers to fill the number of jobs available—what has been called the “skills gap.”
Our solution to the skills gap is to offer current high school students the necessary training for the skilled workforce—a career and technical education. Under the plan, students would be exposed to various trade skill programs, allowing them to get a better understanding of how the demands match their abilities.
Upon completion of the program, students will receive a CTE diploma, and then they will advance to apprenticeship programs and to satisfying, successful careers.
This program is designed to complement, not compete with, the current model that requires all students to earn a Regents diploma. It will focus the students on the Regents design of the educational model by incorporating instruction based on the skills needed for the trade.
For example, we know that an electrician needs an understanding of mathematics, physics and material science chemistry, so those areas will be included in the lesson plan and not handled as separate pieces of unrelated information.
Under the proposed CTE legislation, we believe that these changes will allow the student to find success in the classroom and will ensure the programs operate in a manner that will increase the success and graduation rates for the school districts.
In January, Superintendent Bolgen Vargas commissioned a study regarding the status of CTE programs in the Rochester City School District. This study was prepared by a New York-based company that provides recommendations for high school CTE programs. In committing to this study, Vargas has proved his commitment to CTE in the school district. The time for change is now. The recommendations in the study will work in conjunction with a new CTE Regents diploma.
The success of our economy, our city and our education system are forever linked. With the passage of the legislation creating a CTE diploma, we could begin to train students to be skilled workers with meaningful careers. The future of our families depends on it.
Harry Bronson represents the 138th District in the state Assembly. Kenneth L. Warner is executive director of UNICON, Unions and Businesses United in Construction.
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