June 20, 2014 at 1:00 am

LETTER

Career, tech education crucial

Last week, the Legislature acted to pass legislation that serves as a fix to some of the unintended consequences of the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

The MMC was designed in large part to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in the future and to fill the jobs needed to sustain and grow our state’s economy. In practice, the MMC proved to do just the opposite for a large segment of our students, leading to a skills gap that has slowed our state’s economic growth.

Critics of the improvements to the MMC say it “dumbs down” the curriculum, exactly the type of rhetoric that has stigmatized vocational education, discouraging many students from pursuing a rewarding career.

They label Career and Technical Education programs as “less difficult courses.” Those critics need to visit a CTE classroom.

Why don’t they start at Ishpeming High School where their Geometry in Construction program is taking the full MMC Geometry curriculum and integrating it with their construction trades curriculum?

Students take what they learn in the classroom and immediately apply it on a construction build. They are learning more because they see the relevance in what they are studying.

Come to think of it, the critics are right, this type of learning is less difficult for students — more effective but less difficult.

Most people don’t understand how challenging it is for students in small schools to schedule CTE classes. Critics from large communities need to visit a small rural school where there may only be one section of most required classes. It becomes impossible to schedule all of the required MMC courses and a CTE block course.

You’re right, our lawmakers did act out of emotion. That emotion was the frustration of watching students who would have loved to take a CTE class forced instead to take a required course that was only offered one time. As a result, missing out on a great career exploration opportunity focused on high wage, high skill, high demand careers.

Gov. Rick Snyder and the Legislature recognize the threat that our current and impending skills gap presents to the future prosperity of our State. We appreciate their efforts to move away from the failed “one size fits all” thinking of the past that has resulted in approximately half of our most recent four-year non-CTE college graduates being either unemployed or underemployed in a job that requires no more than a high school diploma.

Students who complete a high school CTE program enroll and complete college at a much higher rate and many of them choose to graduate with a two-year associate degree, earning a wage that often exceeds those of the average four-year non-CTE graduate. Allowing more students to pursue Career and Technical Education will increase college enrollment and completion, limit student loan debt and boost our economy, which will create more and better jobs for Michigan.

Stu Bradley, chairman,

Career Technical Education Committee —

Marquette and Alger counties