Ham & Leek Smorgasbord, Germania, PA

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10th Annual Show & Sale At PA Lumber Museum

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Bill Pekarski: Day 128, Living life on my terms

Bill Pekarski:

Day 128, Living life on my terms.

Does anyone besides me remember being told that if you do well in school and graduate from a four-year college, you will be able to get a great job and live a fulfilling life? All of the work will pay off when you get that parchment in your hand and walk into that interview, where they’ll offer you that dream job with a great starting salary. You will be able to buy that car you want, get married, buy a house, and put away enough money to have a secure retirement by the time you turn 65.

Well now, is anyone else laughing? While this is a great dream, for so many of today’s youth it is not even close to reality. Furthermore, is it fair to measure success by where someone went to school and what kind of a degree he or she has hanging on the wall?

I did go to college and I do have a degree for which I am very proud, but if I had it to do all over again I am not sure I would do it the same way. I worry that kids today are driven toward obtaining our ideal and it may not be the best fit for them.

Maybe the young adult is not ready to go to school. Maybe he (or she) is unsure of what he wants to be or what he wants to do with his life. Pressuring that person to just go to school and telling him that he can figure it out while he is there can be extremely detrimental, not to mention expensive.

I was speaking with a friend the other day who explained to me about three young family members who attained some college education and then stopped or dropped out for whatever reason. While they have found jobs and are working to support themselves and a family, they are also a combined $100,000 in debt. For some of us, that is more than our mortgages.

Aside from the financial issues, I think it is time that we remove the stigma associated with jobs that do not require a college degree. People are having great success, along with finding it easier to attain gainful employment, by going to tech and trade schools. I have the utmost respect for anyone who is willing to learn a trade such as welding, plumbing, auto repair, or any other skill that practically everyone needs.

Sure, I can teach a kid to play music or I can take care of a sick or injured person, but when my car breaks down I need a real mechanic. When my water heater sprung a leak, I did not have the knowledge or the ability to fix it; I had to pay someone else, and I paid them well.

These are very noble professions. Maybe it is about time we started introducing the youth of today to options other than that four-year degree.

Locally, our kids do have the option to attend the Career and Technical Center in Port Allegany in combination with their regular school. At the CTC, they can take courses in auto repair, construction, cosmetology, and even computers, just to name a few.

Local schools are also starting to embrace a mentor program, through which students get one-on-one experience and advice from real professionals working in their chosen fields. This is also beneficial to guidance counselors who are finding it impossible to advise each and every student individually, due to other demands school administrators now make of their guidance departments. The students can gain a realistic perspective on jobs and the job market.

Maybe the teen might not be quite ready to go away to college. The Potter County Education Council offers many different college courses that provide real credits for a fraction of the costs involved with major universities. Many of those courses can be taken by high school students who desire to get a leg up before leaving high school. Also, Potter County may soon have its own affiliate of a new multi-county college that is scheduled to launch this year and will be a huge benefit to our region.

I guess the important thing is to talk to your kids and make sure that they are aware of all the options. Let them look into what interests them and don’t be so quick to push the “you need to go to college and get a degree” button.

One other viable option that I would be remiss without mentioning is enlisting in the military, where they will get training and experience in a multitude of job fields and qualify for financial assistance if they opt to attend college either during or after their service. Essentially, the sky is the limit.

Today I am dedicating my progress to all of the kids in school who have their whole lives in front of them. Take a look around and decided for yourself, what do you want to do?


Anonymous said...

I'll add that Mike Rowe has a program to encourage kids to get into the trades. Check out MikeRoweWorks. His program offers tuition for learning trades.

tooter said...

Bill..After high school I went to WTI,"Williamsport Technical Institute", a 3 year course which I completed in 2 and a half years, had a job lined up a month before I
left WTI, went to work 3 days after I left in Silver Spring MD.where I had a secret clearance with the gov. Went all over the country to learn all phases of Technical Illustration and ended up back schools are the answer. Enjoy your column.tooter

Anonymous said...

Great insights Bill. The guidance counselors and guidance departments have not exactly been shining stars for some of our school districts but that is not necessarily the counselors' fault. When you have to monitor a study hall or be cafeteria monitor, or administer the standardized tests, or get pulled in other directions by the school board/administration, it's hard to be an effective counselor for 150 teenagers. The Mentor Program is a great addition.

Tony said...

a lot... not all... but a lot of kids that go to college get educated way beyond their intelligence