Training program needs work

Published 12:41 am Sunday, September 6, 2009

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James is barking up the wrong tree when he offers an apprentice program for high school juniors and seniors.

Granted, cooperative programs that see high school or college students work are good for business and for the students.

James wants to see students attend classes half a day and work half a day. That’s fine. There are similar arrangements all over the nation.

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But this apprentice program he proffers will narrow students’ proficiency to one thing. James says, “It may be a mechanic job. It may be plumbing. It could be anything.”

Some students would go directly into the job market and others may go to community college to get an associate degree.

That sounds limiting.

The disadvantage in the apprenticeship training program is the foundation skills training of the individual likely will be over specialized, as James mentions — become a mechanic or a plumber — and geared toward short-term employer needs. Thus, the student will not move out of the narrow circle.

In this world economy, we need workers who are as flexible as the labor market. Our students need long-term skills for the ever changing world.

Additionally, the state would have to shoulder the cost burden of this program. That would take away public resources used to finance academic programs. If families must pay fees for such a program, then the state risks the chance of excluding students who would benefit from apprenticeships.

James’ plan needs more thought behind it. The words sound good. They conjure ideas of hives of productive workers. They’re bound to excite various segments of the public that vote.

As it stands now, James needs to take this idea back to the drawing board.