Business case for improved school counseling

Patrick O'Connor

Parents will do almost anything to create better opportunities for their children, and Michigan parents can do that right now with just a couple of phone calls.

House Bill 4552 is sitting in the state Senate. If passed, it will make sure school counselors are providing the latest information on college and career trends to Michigan students and families — information that can make a difference between landing a good-paying job in Michigan, and never knowing all the options that exist for life after high school.

This bill was created at the request of Michigan businesses for one reason — they need workers. There were 3,000 vacant skilled trades jobs in Michigan the first day of school this year. If more counselors knew that, more students would now be training for them, and be ready to follow the footsteps of the 20 year-old skilled tradesman who is making $43,000 a year.

Others would learn of the growing opportunities with a college degree that didn’t exist when their counselor went to graduate school. Getting the latest training on post-secondary trends is a must if counselors want to help students understand all the possibilities the future could bring. House Bill 4552 will help them do exactly that.

Business owners also need to call in their support for this bill. Our emerging workforce — our current high school students — needs to understand these non-traditional options and include them in their decision-making process. And our emerging workforce advisers — our current high school counselors — need to be equipped with the latest workforce supply and demand data, hiring trends, and talent preferences.

This knowledge will let them not only advise students on which colleges to pursue, but also which professions are growing, and what it will take to match their interests with business demands. Better prepared students lead to fewer personnel and training costs, and make for a more savvy, flexible workplace. What more could a business owner want?

Bills that make this much sense don’t always get the attention they deserve by the public, or by the Legislature. Your call to your state senator, and a call to Education Committee Chair Phil Pavlov’s office, can be one of those small things that make a world of difference to your children, your business and our state.

Patrick O’Connor is associate dean of college counseling at Cranbrook Schools.