Our View: Job skills training for children can make education more relevant




There was a time, not so long ago, that a child's path from school to the workplace was pretty simple and uniform.


From kindergarten to high school graduation, students studied the same basic language, history, math and sciences classes. For high achieving students, there were higher level courses in math or science that could be taken. Students who struggled in academics as they entered high school were shuttled off to vocational training involving a few courses -- carpentry, wood-working, auto body, etc.


It was only until the student's senior year that any thought was given to what would be next, almost as if there was no connection between what they studied in school and what would come next. Kids went to college or to a factory job, maybe.



Fortunately, that old way of thinking is evolving, as noted by events held in the Golden Triangle just this week.


If a kid is told what kind of things an engineer does and what skills an engineer needs, those otherwise tedious math courses suddenly become relevant, important. A kid that wants to be a doctor understands the importance of those chemistry and science classes. A child that wants to be a teacher will approach those language and history classes with far more enthusiasm. These classes are taking them a step closer to their dream job.


Kids need to know there is a world full of different kinds of jobs and that the classes they take provide the foundation for pursuing them.


It's for that reason it's never too early for a child to be exposed to job skills.


As an example. When Fred Gregory was a kid, he didn't dream of becoming NASA's first black deputy director. He just wanted to fly helicopters.


He fulfilled that dream, then took it further, becoming a NASA astronaut, then moving up the NASA hierarchy. Gregory now travels the country presenting university scholarships for the Astronaut Scholars Foundation, as he did at Mississippi State on Tuesday.


It's no stretch to say if Gregory never dreamed a child's dream of flying a helicopter, he would never have found his way to his important role with NASA.


On Wednesday, the FORGE Foundation, a group of Golden Triangle companies in the construction industry, held a career expo at EMCC's Communiversity, exposing 1,000 local eighth-graders to a wide range of job possibilities in the construction skills industry, where demand for workers is high.


As the FORGE Foundation noted, only 27 percent of Mississippi kids will earn 2- or 4-year degrees. For the remaining 73 percent, the construction industry is a path to meaningful employment.


Among those thousands, there are kids for whom the expo was their first exposure to a career they never thought of or knew existed. For them, that window into the working world may well translate into the classroom.


On Wednesday, while eighth-graders were learning about construction jobs, nine Columbus area second- and third-graders were being provided a look into the wonders of science at Mississippi University for Women in a science carnival conducted by students from Mississippi School for Math and Science.


As it was with the older students, the elementary kids got to try their hand at "science in action," through a variety of experiments. When you take any subject off the pages of a book and make it something tangible, the wheels of imagination begin to turn.


That really is what it's all about.


Capture a child's imagination and the world opens to them.


That should include the work world, too.




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