We have discussed the need for qualified workers for today’s technology-driven industries, but few companies actually take real action in creating the right local environment to foster and support a pool of potential local high school candidates to fill these challenging jobs.
This is not the case in one area of the Midwest where small tech companies are finding a new way to build up the local talent and take a more active role in the structuring of the local high schools and junior colleges to develop this talent needed to drive their businesses to compete in global markets. These businesses include aerospace and engineering firms as well as electrical, HVAC and laser-engraving companies.
If you live in the Rockford, Ill., area, chances are you have heard of the Stateline Quiz Bowl TV show. It is a local TV show featuring competition between 31 local area high schools from both Illinois and Wisconsin. The academic questions are tough, and they cover a myriad of subject areas from all the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects and physics to music, art, sports and literature.
It is a challenging show that really tests the knowledge of its participants. It also provides a TV showcase that spotlights the importance of having a huge knowledge base and education to compete beyond high school and into various careers.
It is heavily sponsored by local businesses who are always looking for new employees to hire into their specialized areas and industries. Several diversified companies sponsor this show as well as offer internships to graduates.
The local union of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association have an apprenticeship program tied in with the local junior college. Participants in that apprenticeship program can get an associate degree in electronics and technology without incurring the burden of a huge tuition debt. This should be the roadmap for the rest of the states and regions to create topnotch school districts that produce a real workforce that can adapt into real jobs at a local level.
What are you doing in your community or region when it comes to nurturing a skilled workforce out of the local area to build your electrical contracting companies? We need to ask that question as more dependence on educated labor (and trainable labor) becomes a must-have for small and medium-sized businesses that need to recruit and retain talent at a local level.
Most business executives are not asking tough questions to school districts that think it is great only if the student moves on to college and does not consider trade schools or other specialized training.
The need to update and upgrade our infrastructure on all levels, including the power grid, in order to compete globally as well as attract and maintain corporate employers within the region, is critical. The network infrastructure cannot be overlooked either with new initiatives like upgrading to 5G network technology and adding more capacity to handle streaming video applications.
The jobs needed to accomplish these major initiatives are not dependent on just college graduates. Many need people with technical and associate degrees as well as certificates. Is the IBEW in your area supporting this type of initiative?
Getting this initiative in more areas
What I found with this TV program is there should be an identical one for every regional school district in the United States. It is a very good way to create a healthy competition to check if the schools are teaching relevant materials in each district. The questions on this program were tough and cut across many industries and disciplines. I was impressed with some of the team members' answers that ranged from physics and astronomy to complex mathematical formulas and symbols.
I believe some school districts would want no part of this program because you quickly find out which schools are way behind in getting their students prepared for life beyond high school. How many high schools would fail this very public type of accountability and academic challenge?
What I like about the Stateline Quiz Bowl is you find out very quickly what schools are doing a good job in providing a broad education. It is a good collaboration between all elements of the community from businesses to families to the school districts in attempting to make the whole region a viable workplace with many opportunities available to all levels of graduates.
Competition brings out the best in people, whether it be in sports, music or academics. We should be teaching this at an early age, and this type of academic-based competition in a TV format should be well-supported by all the community.
Let’s get beyond the idea that everyone had to go to college to get a good job. College is no guarantee of a good job, and a high school diploma is not enough anymore. You earn more when you learn more, and that includes technical certificates and trade schools.