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Open Forum: Schools prepare our workers

The “Manufacturers open doors to the public” cover story in the Oct. 27 Dispatch talked about the lack of workers with the training to take on good manufacturing jobs. Then on page 6, there was a well-written letter discussing the link between education and career readiness.

These pieces both hit on a fundamental issue — the role of our schools in preparing the workers our local economy needs in order to thrive.

I have been fortunate to work with leaders of several area manufacturers and one thing is clear — the era of high-paying jobs that require no training is gone. Our manufacturers need trained machinists, welders, and other high-tech workers and the place where this training must start is in our schools.

My Dad was a Brainerd industrial tech teacher for over 30 years and I spent many hours in his shop after school watching him get kids excited about technology. Dad’s 14-year-olds made Fiberglas kayaks and compound hunting bows and would tear down and rebuild engines. For many kids classrooms like my Dad’s were where their interest in technical careers really took hold.

Unfortunately, opportunities like Dad’s advanced technical education classes are getting rare. It is far cheaper to put 30 (or 40) students in a lecture-style classroom than it is to create the kinds of hands-on learning opportunities needed to get kids interested in technical careers. So I join and earlier Open Forum writer in hoping our area communities will provide the support needed to make these opportunities happen.

Jeff Wig