Post Bulletin: Trade skills education starts early, leads to opportunity
Feb 2, 2018
PINE ISLAND -- In the Pine Island "Fab Lab," students practically swarm the foam cutter.
The tool is one of many that fill the Fabrication Laboratory, a space for hands-on learning that is part of the newly remodeled middle school/high school, where Peter Johnson's eighth-grade, eighth-period class figures out how to build things with modern tools, their hands and their imaginations.
"You never know what they're going to figure out," said Johnson, who spends the class answering questions, encouraging ideas and reminding students to clean up after themselves. Pointing to the different cutting and manufacturing tools around the room, he added, "They have all these tools they know how to use."
[The trend toward four year schools], said Leslie Bleskachek, vice president of Academic Affairs and Student Services at MSC-SE, began in the 1980s when studies showed how much a person with a bachelor's degree made a lifetime compared to high school graduates.
"People misinterpreted that to think bachelor's degrees are the gold standard to which everyone should be measured," she said.
That led to an image issue that community and technical colleges have been battling ever since.
"We're trying to move from that idea that everyone needs a four-year degree to, everyone needs some post-secondary education," she said. "Follow what you're passionate about and you'll do well. That's better than being a half-hearted English major."
Bleskachek said the Winona and Red Wing-based college has been developing closer relationships with are schools that are eager to show students they can get a great job even if they don't go spend money on a bachelors degree.
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