College not the only path to a rewarding career | TheUnion.com

College not the only path to a rewarding career

Mary Owens
Mary’s Minute

Few things in life give as much long-term joy to grandparents and parents than seeing their loved ones succeed in life and be happy with their chosen career.

The older generation assists in so many important and positive ways. No one knows these young people better than those who have watched them grow up, observed their talents, passions and personalities. Who better to mentor them towards investigating careers that might interest them and lead them to a life of both professional satisfaction and financial security?

So many discussions of this nature focus on a pathway to college, leading to a degree. This option is certainly worthwhile, and with a major that is carefully chosen and well thought out, it can provide the emotional and financial success that any young person desires. Many times, the family members who are providing financial and mentoring support put too much pressure on the "college degree only" option. Society has forgotten about the importance of career technical education as a viable, financially rewarding and career satisfying pathway to success.

Many now regard career technical education as a second-class option versus the four-year college degree route. This attitude is creating heartache among our youth and major problems for our economy as a whole. Career technology is not a second-class choice; it is an equal but different choice.

Not all children are college material. This is not a reflection of their character or their intelligence. It's just a reflection of how they are wired.

Each of us is gifted differently. Some love to work with their hands, others are talented in the gift of communication, or the sweetness of hospitality. We need these folks in our lives and our economy. We need plumbers, carpenters, fire fighters, home health care aides, certified nursing assistants, welders, police officers, electricians, machinists, computer programmers, and more. These careers are all experiencing serious shortages in their industries. Why? What happened to career technical education programs and why did the focus on them diminish?

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A little history needs to be explored to understand why this area of education was given a back seat to a four-year degree career pathway. The first impact was slowly created by the expanding world-wide economy. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Japan was one of the first countries to challenge the manufacturing might of the United States. With Japan's large investment in improved technologies and intense career technical education training for workers, they started to erode the U.S. manufacturing job market slowly but steadily. The U.S. was asleep at the wheel. The attitudes of large companies back then were somewhat arrogant; no one can really compete with the American manufacturing might. Over-confidence, in time, frequently leads to complacency and lack of a keen attitude towards staying abreast of competition. The rest is history.

The second shoe to drop in the career tech arena was caused by a very poor public policy regarding the eligibility of the draft during the Vietnam War.

During the majority of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam offensive, our national draft rules dictated that if you were going to college you were exempt from the draft. However, if you were attending a career technical education school, you were 1A eligible for being sent overseas as a soldier. This was a horrific policy in our history. We placed a higher value on the lives of those in college than those young people who were better suited for other important and essential careers and skill sets. The impact of this policy was devastating to the career tech schools. Students flooded out of those schools and into collegiate educational institutions. They all wanted to avoid the draft and the only sure bet was to enroll in either a community college or a four-year institution.

This policy was finally changed just before Nixon pulled out of the Vietnam War, but the damage had already been done. Career technical education schools across the nation were shutting down. The last and final blow was the high schools dropping many of their career tech classes because of lack of funding.

So where does that leave us today? We have so many serious shortages in so many industries it is too long to list. These are all good paying jobs that are essential to fuel our economy and service our needs. Career technical education is not a second-class choice, it is a great choice. It can help people find rewarding careers that are critical to our society. Please encourage your young loved ones that college is not the only good option for an emotionally satisfying and financially rewarding career.

Never stop encouraging your loved ones to obtain skills they need in life to be successful. Don't focus your mentoring on just one pathway – there are two paths and both are equal and rewarding.

Next month I will be discussing the significant changes recently made to college savings 529 plans. They are not just for college any longer. There is also good news coming for Sierra College; significant increases in career technical education funding is in the works.

There is light ahead for career technical education to turn around and once again be a positive driving force in our economy.

Mary Owens, Principal/Branch Manager, RJFS, 426 Sutton Way, Suite 110, Grass Valley, CA 95945, 530-272-7500. Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Owens Estate and Wealth Strategies Group is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Neither Raymond James Financial Services nor any Raymond James Financial Advisor renders advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues, these matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional. The foregoing information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Mary Owens and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

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