NPRI’s 2007 Roundtables
Public education in Nevada operates under an increasingly widespread assumption that all high school students must attend college. The reality, however, is that many of the state’s high school graduates are more inclined toward — and perhaps better suited for — an education that emphasizes technical and practical skills, rather than academics. Unfortunately, the current system remains blind to this reality.
There are two basic dangers in proceeding with the current approach: First, students who would benefit most from a career-oriented education are effectively being denied the opportunity to pursue one. By some accounts, as many as 80 percent of students in the Silver State can look back, a few years after graduation, and recognize that, for them, such a course would have been superior.
Second, Nevada employers looking to add skilled, young workers to their payrolls repeatedly find themselves facing a dearth of qualified candidates.
This crisis in career and technical education (CTE) in Nevada was the subject of four roundtable sessions held around the state by the Nevada Policy Research Institute early this year. They were designed to generate discussion about the subject of CTE in Nevada, and used a recent study conducted for the Institute by Dr. Robert Schmidt as a springboard. That study — titled, “Teaching the Forgotten Half: Career and Vocational Education in Nevada’s High Schools” — was distributed to roundtable participants in advance of the sessions.
The Schmidt study features a close look at a changing employment marketplace facing Nevada high school graduates. Given that reality, it notes, specific vocational and career training programs can provide significantly valuable alternatives to a traditional high school and college education. Under a more flexible and market-sensitive approach to career and technical education, young Nevadans will be more able to go directly from high school into successful and rewarding careers — whether technical and vocational or even strictly academic.