Refreshing W.Va. Vocational Classes

In both the business community and among school officials, there seems to be agreement vocational education should be one of the keys to school reform in West Virginia. Many legislators appear to agree.

That involves a two-pronged challenge: First, too many school officials view vocational and technical programs as second-class education. And – no surprise here, in view of the educators’ attitude – many students feel the same way.

Legislators discussing the challenge were told last week that West Virginia has “great vo-tech programs …” But Gary Clay, representing the state Manufacturers Association, added, “We don’t have students for those programs.”

Here in the Northern Panhandle, high schools and West Virginia Northern Community College offer a variety of excellent career-oriented training programs. Graduates of some of them can earn paychecks substantially higher than those collected by their peers who obtain bachelor’s degrees.

Yet vocational-technical education still is viewed as an option primarily for young people who, for one reason or another, cannot go to four-year colleges.

In both the public education system and among young West Virginians, that needs to change. Making that happen should be a priority of legislators, the state Department of Education – and local school officials.