U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) this week highlighted the need for greater workforce development programs in American education during a hearing hosted by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
In his remarks and lines of questioning, Tuberville spoke of the urgent need for students to be exposed to additional quality career paths beyond a traditional four-year college degree. Alabama’s junior senator also raised concerns regarding the ramifications of a tuition-free college system.
One point Tuberville made was the importance of beginning workforce development programming in high school.
“Workforce development has been huge on my agenda for years,” he outlined. “I’ve been in education for 40 years, traveling the world and traveling the country trying to help kids get jobs. … We need to train kids for the future workforce, and we need to get them to the point where they know how to use their hands, know how to use their brains, and understand work and work ethic.”
Tuberville said, “A 12-year system, to me, is outdated… We get to the last 11th and 12th grade … and they’re taking activity courses, study halls, and we’re not preparing them. I truly believe that we need to teach them something in the last two years of their high school to get them involved in something they can get interested in, whether it’s woodshop, welding, nursing, cooking – and teach that, and teach them how to do things like that. Am I on the right track there?”
Maria Flynn, president and CEO of Jobs for the Future, responded, “I think you’re on absolutely the right track. I think that really we need to be thinking about pathways that really span from 9th grade up through sort of ‘grade 14’ – so four years of high school and two years of post-secondary training. Really embedding that high-quality work-based learning in high school is key.”
“I also think we need to be looking at how to continue to address the, I think, outdated and somewhat unfair stigma around Career and Technical education,” she added. “So, how can we help educate students and parents and school leaders about these great opportunities that are in the skilled trades.”
Tuberville later discussed what he views as the shortcoming of universal “free” college.
“The only thing I worry about free tuition for junior colleges, and really for four-year schools, is the part of learning how to go out on your own; how to learn how to be responsible for yourself,” the Republican senator remarked. “If something’s free, you don’t work as hard. We’ve all found that out and I think if you’ve got skin in the game then it’s pretty hard to quit. It’s pretty hard to kick the can down the road, and I think you will both agree. We need kids to learn how to work, that’s the number one thing I think we need to do.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn