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As an educator, parent and legislator, I place great importance on educating and preparing our children to succeed when they enter the workforce.

We must ensure that we give parents and students flexibility and options when it comes to choosing what works best for them. That is why I was proud to join three of my colleagues in sponsoring a package of bills to update Michigan’s high school graduation standards to reflect the needs of today’s workforce. This package, recently approved in the state House, will help set the table for all Michigan students’ futures by recognizing the amazing opportunities for high-paying careers in the skilled trades, instead of focusing solely on preparing all students to go to college and get four-year degrees. We all benefit when we realize that many of today’s students can enter into excellent careers without a four-year college degree.

These updates would require students to complete at least three courses in 21st century skills, which include any combination of foreign language; visual, performing or applied arts; computer science or coding; or a formal career/technical education program. This would also help prepare students for the workplace by allowing completion of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration general industry or construction-training program to fulfill a health education requirement, and allow statistics to be an alternative to algebra II within current Michigan Merit Standards, which require at least four math credits to graduate.

Collectively, this would give students and parents the ability to tailor high school learning to the students’ interests and their career goals. This legislation would give students better choices and options to prepare for life after high school. It is crucial to help match educational opportunities with the careers and jobs that are out there today versus 20 years ago, and it’s time for people to stop devaluing the skilled trades as a career.

We should work to address our state’s skills gap, and failing to adapt our standards is irresponsible. My colleagues and I consistently hear from employers who say “we’ve got jobs but we can’t find employees with the skills we need.” Including these skills in our high school curriculum is a great step forward for students, families and our communities.

State Rep. Beth Griffin, R-Mattawan, represents the 66th District.

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