I graduated from Jefferson High School in 1967. Although I didn’t know it at the time, an electronics course I took there helped in my choice that led me to what ended up being a lucrative, 44-year career as an electrician.
Because I loved math, I thought I would be an accountant. But a college path didn’t hold my interest, and I dropped out. It was by a stroke of luck that I heard about an electrician apprenticeship program. I signed up and, as they say, the rest is history.
But there’s a disconnect. I didn’t set out to join the trades, I only fell into it by chance.
What I’d love to see is a pipeline where young people get engaged with hands-on skills in high school that can enlighten them to a whole universe of possibilities, including the trades.
Oregonians will have an opportunity this fall that starts such a pipeline. By voting “yes” in November on Measure 98.
Measure 98 prioritizes our high schools by allocating a portion of new revenue for districts to spend in ways that we know improve out comes for high school students.
Measure 98 dollars are available for districts to spend on expanding and creating new vocational and career technical education (CTE) so that all high school students can take advantage of it. Right now, a lot depends on whether you live in the right zip code or win a lottery to a CTE-focused school. Measure 98 dollars also can be used for college prep and dropout prevention.
Although Portland high schools offer CTE, we have far too little classes available for all of our students who would like vocational education opportunities. Benson High School, the district’s CTE-focused high school, consistently has long waiting lists and other Portland high schools are just now beefing up CTE. These aspects contribute to our embarrassing graduation rate.
Furthermore, our graduates aren’t well prepared because they lack basic skills – three out of four who go directly to community college must take basic education and many can’t even use a tape measure.
CTE opens up new worlds to high school students. First, they learn that these vocations exist – and that they are starting points on paths to successful futures. Students explore and discover their potential. Many young people find out that they enjoy and are good at working in an applied learning environment and/or with their hands. The relevance of school is easy to see. This will also make high school a springboard to the real world of work toward career goals.
Consider these additional important facts:
Measure 98 sets aside portions of new state revenues for three purposes: Expanding and creating CTE, expanding and creating college prep education, as well as aiding dropout prevention.
Doing nothing and letting them continue to fall through massive cracks in our education system, can’t continue to be an option. Please join me in supporting Measure 98.
From Constructing Hope website Keith is a board member.
Keith Edwards has served as a Shop Steward, Business Manager of IBEW Local 48. He has held Executive Board positions at the Oregon AFL-CIO; Northwest Oregon Labor Council; Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council; Construction Apprenticeship & Workforce Solutions, Inc.; and United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. He has organized volunteer licensed electricians to rewire our training facility.