Eagle editorial: Career training needed

Gov. Sam Brownback showed that he is both a good sport and understands the importance of preparing students for the working world when he joined in a classroom exercise Monday at Wichita West High School.

Brownback visited the school to recognize Jobs for America’s Graduates, a program aimed at keeping kids in school and preparing them to succeed in the workplace. West is one of five Wichita schools and 25 schools statewide participating in the program.

While at West, Brownback joined students as they practiced giving 30-second introductions of themselves. “I’m Sam Brownback. I’m governor of the state of Kansas. I want to help Kansas to be a better place – grow the economy, have a better education system,” Brownback said as he rotated among the students.

Brownback knows that to succeed in today’s job market, students need skills and training.

“This is a complex society,” Brownback said Monday. “If you get out and you can’t do anything, you don’t have any particular expertise or you don’t have higher education, life can be pretty tough.”

Many schools push students along a college track, regardless of their interests. But a university may not be the best option for some students, and society needs people who can work with their hands and do other trades.

That’s why Brownback also championed a program in the 2012 legislative session that encourages career and technical education.

The state pays the tuition costs of high school students who take classes at local technical colleges during their junior and senior years. Schools are rewarded for directing students toward high-demand jobs, such as electricians and diesel engine mechanics, and the students can earn industry certificates – so they are qualified to start working as soon as they graduate.

The program is already a hit. Last school year, the number of high school students who attended the state’s 26 community and technical colleges increased 50 percent, from 3,870 students to 5,800, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. It is expected to keep growing this year.

Universities appropriately receive a lot of focus in Topeka, and lawmakers were foolish to cut higher-ed funding this past session (including to technical colleges). Good for Brownback for also recognizing the value and importance of career training – and for demonstrating how to give a short speech.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee