Education System needs to Train for Job Skills

My first experience with technical/adult education came at the age of 44 when the plant I was working at closed. My philosophy on Adult and Career Education stems from my personal experience as a student and as a current instructor of adult education.

As an educational entity, I believe the primary focus of vocational institutions should be geared toward the learner as a “whole” and not solely on the mastery of “job-specific skills.” I think adult and career education encompasses much more than just instructing students on how to
perform particular tasks; it should also:

Aid in the development of students personality and character while promoting spiritual and human values
Promote activities and curriculum that enhances the learners capacity for understanding, critical thinking, and self-expression
Develop competencies in decision-making
Enable students to cope with the rapid advances in computer technology
Help instill the qualities necessary for active and intelligent participation, teamwork, and leadership

As educators, we should recognize students as willing participants, capable of making choices and decisions, and not machines that only respond in a certain way to a certain stimulus. I believe all human beings have the ability to change and to learn. Adult and Career Education classrooms are often a various blend of students: some straight out of high school, some who are attending or who have already attended college, older adults, such as myself, who find them selves in need of retraining, as well as individuals who are just looking to improve their skills in a specific area.

It is our responsibility when creating policy, procedure, and curriculum, to explore and take into consideration the needs, interest, and problems of the variety of students involved, which includes students who come from different
backgrounds, working experiences, and family environments. Therefore, we must strive to incorporate enough flexibility to create an atmosphere that lends itself toward self-discovery, interaction with others, and improved leadership abilities. Some may argue this is not the responsibility of career and technical education. However, if you were to ask any employer I believe they would agree that the best employees are those who can bring more to the job than
just job-specific proficiency.

A certain amount of structured guidance is both necessary and essential to ensure students achieve specific job-related skills. Nevertheless, I also think it is our responsibility to provide students with the encouragement and opportunities necessary to help them step beyond their comfort zone so they can realize their full potential.

In my opinion, program curriculum should emphasize real-world scenarios students can relate to so the learning experience becomes more meaningful to each individual learner. All programs and classroom structure should reflect an ambiance of mutual trust, respect for diversity, and team spirit.

In order to promote student growth and self-esteem I feel the student should always be the center of focus. Teachers must see students as individuals, capable of choice and decision, and not machines that respond a certain way to a certain stimulus. Teachers must be careful not to dominate and manipulate their students. They must encourage, inspire, and guide students to help
them develop an attitude of equality and respect for others. As educators, we should be committed to providing an environment that helps students learn and experience the value of teamwork and pride in a job well done.

Teachers should show enthusiasm for their subject and be ready to explain why the subject is beneficial to the student to help avert discouragement. A teacher who is not enthusiastic about their subject can ruin even the most fascinating of subjects.

Teachers should be required to have significant personal experience in their field of expertise. First-hand knowledge and real-life experience is an invaluable resource for helping students relate the information their learning to every day situations. When individuals are empowered with new knowledge and confidence, they can make positive and responsible decisions in their jobs, lives and society in general.

With the increase in globalization, workforce diversity, and new technology the demands to improve the quality of our society’s workforce is paramount. To meet these demands we must start by doing a better job of defining what constitutes “employability skills.” As a society and as individuals, we are inundated with the challenge of making decisions everyday; from what product to purchase, to whom to vote for, to whether we should drink or smoke, to what kind of career we want. When we fail to consider the implications of our decisions, it has a far-reaching effect. By teaching individuals to think about their decisions instead of just reacting, we provide society with a group of people who can assist their communities and families with alternative solutions to everyday problems. When problems are solved, everyone benefits.

If we insist on creating a classroom and job environment where the atmosphere is conducive to only stringent rules and procedures with no opportunity for individuals to consider and offer alternative solutions, we are creating a roadblock for the individual and for society.

I remember back in elementary school when I would come home and ask dad for help with a math problem. He would help me solve the problem and get the correct answer; however, the teacher would mark it wrong because I did not derive at the answer the same way she did. I can still recall the frustration and discouragement. When we enforce “one way only” limitations on students and employees, I believe it stifles their creativity, productivity, and desire to learn.

For instances, suppose we provided students with a problem; then gave them the answer, and then asked them to see how many different ways they could come up with a solution to that problem?

If I gave you the numbers 12 and 6 and told you the answer was 2 how many ways could you solve the problem to come up with the correct answer? Your first response might be that 12/6=2, or 12-10=2, but so does 12-6-4, or 12+6/9.

We should provide students with amply opportunities to learn critical thinking skills to help generate individuals who can use alternative thinking to assist them in resolving real-life problems in their work, community, and personal lives.

I feel much of my own success and accomplishments are a direct result of having attended a Technical Institute. I am grateful to the caring and devoted instructors who willing and eagerly
guided me through the challenges of learning new technology. The instructors who had the greatest influence on me were those who encouraged and allowed me to step out of my comfort zone. Had it not been for their belief in me and their constant encouragement I may never have realized my full potential.

Ever since I was a child I loved to play “school”, and of course I was always the “teacher”, but it wasn’t until I experienced Vocational Technical Education that I realized I could actually accomplish my dream. An instructor once told me, “It is only natural to want to stay within the confines of our own knowledge and experience. But in order to bring about change in our lives we must change our patterns of behavior and be willing to undertake fundamentally different experiences than what we already know.” My educational and workforce accomplishments prove she was right.