From: The Winona Workforce Board
Jim Vrchota, chairman
Craig Porter, past chair, Lewiston business owner
Laura Pettersen, executive director
The Winona Workforce Development Board is legislated at the national level to have responsibilities as a convener, a collaborator and charged with hosting community conversations. Our charter is to better align workforce resources and better understand the complexity of our market. The strength of the board comes from being locally- and demand-driven. We have a high level of involvement from those who know the community best and can direct resources in a way that is most responsive to the needs of local employers and job seekers.
The Lewiston Altura School District is in the process of changing its policy that requires industrial arts to graduate from high school. Despite being brought up and turned away at last March’s district system accountability meeting (curriculum review), at September’s meeting it was again motioned and passed to rewrite district policy. The revision would change industrial arts from a direct graduation requirement to industrial arts being one of three course areas a student could choose to take and graduate, the other two options being in either the business or agriculture classes.
Speaking for all manufacturers and trades employers in the area, we cannot express how poor of a decision the school district is making in pursuing this change. The current trend across the United States is to strengthen ties to vocational education, trades, and technical careers. Magazines, newspapers, and the internet are filled with stories about not needing to take on the burden of loan debt associated with four-year degrees to achieve a good-paying career. There are thousands of current openings in Minnesota for people in careers that only require anywhere from a high school diploma and some on-the-job-training, to one- or two-year educational programs, in some cases where employers will cover the cost of the classes. Education and business partnerships are springing up in high schools all over Minnesota, from the REACH program right here in Winona to Career Academy programs in the Twin Cities, Bemidji, Hibbing, and others. These programs offer a chance to learn about opportunities in manufacturing, health care, automotive, child care, IT, law enforcement and construction to name a few.
Based on this current sentiment, the Lewiston Altura School District should be expanding its industrial arts offerings. They should make use of the extensive shop equipment list they already possess. At a minimum, continuing to require industrial arts is a must. Industrial arts is a fundamental tool to help children learn how things in the world fit together and work. Barring their ultimate career choice, what student will not grow up to own a car, a lawnmower, need to repair a broken railing or fix a worn plumbing pipe?
Contact the Lewiston Altura School Board members. Tell them that you don’t want your children to be misguided into thinking an expensive four-year college degree is their only option. They should allow their students to expand their knowledge in both book work and hands-on areas, and enable them to make better decisions on what type of career is most interesting for them.