In every high school's graduating class, there is a population of students who want to join the workforce rather than spend more time in school.
Force-feeding those students the same classes as classmates who plan to attend college wastes students' and teachers' time and ends up harming the businesses who can't find workers qualified to do the work they require.
New York state can do something to help by approving a Career and Technical Education diploma. The state Board of Regents, in its December memo to the state Legislature in preparation for state budget negotiations, suggested expanding the state's financial support of career and technical education by giving BOCES and enhancing school districts more aid to help pay for career and technical education programs.
The state Board of Regents should have gone a step further and recommended creation of a full Career and Technical Education diploma.
Business officials and the area's elected representatives have spent the past few years talking about the need to do more to prepare today's youth for the workforce. There will be a projected 3,500 positions open at existing companies in Chautauqua County for young workers as baby boomers retire. Offering the Career and Technical Education diploma fits nicely with the push by the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturer's Association of the Southern Tier to encourage local students to consider careers in manufacturing and technology.
The Career and Technical Education diploma, as co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, would provide a new way to graduate from high school by incorporating career-focused classes into school programs and produce more skilled workers for technical and manufacturing companies. A Career and Technical Education diploma isn't an easy way out of high school for students who don't want to go to college. The quality of a CTE education should be just as rigorous as a Regents diploma education to certify a student with a CTE diploma is ready to work in his or her chosen field.
The state Board of Regents has been discussing the idea off and on for the past couple of years. The CTE diploma needs to move past the discussion phase, and the bill Goodell is co-sponsoring is a good start.