Technical Education Post

News and Information for Technical Educators

HS Graduates Entering Workforce

A rising number of high school graduates are forgoing college and entering the workforce, according to Labor Department data. The college enrollment rate for recent U.S. high school graduates fell to 61.4% in 2023, the lowest level in at least three decades. HS Graduates Entering Workforce. For the last several decades, our educational system has been carefully molded to usher students from prekindergarten to college.

Our current system relies on two assumptions: first, that a college-preparatory curriculum adequately prepares high school graduates for direct entry into the workforce; and second, that a college degree will guarantee a good job. But students, workers, and employers are telling us quite clearly that something is awry. Many employers can’t seem to find enough skilled workers, while recent graduates don’t always feel prepared to take on even entry-level work.

Although the current skills mismatch might feel particularly urgent in a tight labor market, this isn’t a novel concern. We could apply the following summation from the seminal “A Nation at Risk” report to our current anxieties: “More and more young people emerge from high school ready neither for college nor for work. This predicament becomes more acute as the knowledge base continues its rapid expansion, the number of traditional jobs shrinks, and new jobs demand greater sophistication and preparation.”

Job Signing Day

Nearly 70 high school seniors in Blount County signed onto jobs with local companies at the Blount County Job Signing Day last week. Many of those students are forgoing college. Blount Partnership hosted the event.

“Just because you graduate high school doesn’t mean you stop learning, because a lot of these companies, they’re paying for these kids to get additional certificates at the community colleges, and TCAT, that offers different programs,” said Jeff Muir with Blount Partnership.

One of those companies is Massey Electric, which has participated in Blount County Job Signing Day since it began six years ago. The company provides an apprenticeship program for high school graduates.“

They can come out of high school, they come straight to our program, they get hired on, four years later they’re a nationally certified electrician,” Rick Heath, Training and Safety Director at Massey Electric, said.

The first signing day only had a handful of companies and six students participate. This year, 68 students signed onto a job. Massey Electric CEO Thomas Ford said the trend of high school graduates entering the workforce has been beneficial for them.

“A few years ago, not too long ago, it felt like it was great just to have someone with simple math skills but now we’re coming in with people that have OSHA certifications, that know basic construction skills, know tools of the trade, so it’s been a huge benefit,” he said.

CTE Programs

Many of these students are participating in career technical education or CTE programs during high school.

“They’ve been working with these companies as student laborers and getting experience, and so they’ve been welcomed into the companies and it’s a great pipeline for those companies as well, because that’s how they’re going to build their workforce,” Muir said.

This is one of the ways Massey Electric has gained employees. Ford said 75% of their employees went through the company’s apprenticeship program directly after high school.

“Currently, after you graduate four years at our apprenticeship program, you will actually make more coming out of our program than the average college graduate in the state of Tennessee, which is a huge benefit because you’ve been employed the entire four years before that, making money and debt free,” Ford said.

Blount County students also signed onto jobs with Danny Davis Electric, Blount Memorial Hospital, Cherokee Millwright, ICC International, Murphy’s Bobcat, Haven Media, Axis Fabrication and Machine Co., Garner’s Automotive and more.

Source: HS Graduates Entering Workforce

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