"Connecting the classroom to industry is exactly what is needed to improve our failing education system. " - John Morris, President, Ohio Valley Construction Education Foundation
Teachers and their union officials all across the state of Ohio have officially declared that they oppose the idea of asking teachers to spend some time with local businesses as a part of their licensure requirements as recently proposed by Governor Kasich. They find the idea completely preposterous and argue that only those who “spend time in a classroom” should come up with new ideas on how to improve our failing education system. In some recent “op-ed” pieces, they have gone so far as to ask that parents and fellow educators “make their voices heard”. Well, let me be the first to publicly ask parents and business leaders to let their voices be heard – this idea makes perfect sense for all the same reasons the teachers are arguing against it. Let me thank them for making the point.
First, let me start by pointing out that I HAVE spent time in the classroom. I was a teacher and principal in Cincinnati Public Schools. 95% of my students were on free or reduced lunch; 35% were special needs. We did not let our challenges stop us from student success; we embraced the business community and invited them into our classrooms. Later, I was an Economics Professor at the University of Cincinnati. I have also owned my own businesses. Connecting the classroom to industry is exactly what is needed to improve our failing education system. Many teachers have an unfortunate and complete misunderstanding of the purpose of public education. This is not their fault – it is the way they are being taught at whatever college of education they attended. You see Teacher’s Colleges train teachers “how to teach” very well. What they fail to do well (or at all) is to teach subject matter content and more importantly CONTEXT.
Connecting teachers to a local business so that they can stay connected to the world of work is critical to the true mission of schools. Public Schools exist to prepare students for success in life, to be productive members of society, to use their god given talents to improve economic conditions, to work toward the pursuit of happiness, to be more attractive to employers. Unfortunately, most teachers simply want the world outside of schools to stay away. In one opposing article, a public school teacher wished that employees could be sent into schools to teach about their businesses with hands on programs.
The Ohio Valley Construction Education Foundation worked with a group of teachers to create a series of standards based lessons, "Building MAS Skills," that teach students the practical applications of math and science that are used every day in the world of construction. We then recruited over 100 industry professionals to be trained by teachers on best practices for delivering the lesson. With a full plan in place, we then sent emails and made phone calls to teachers asking for them to allow volunteers to visit their classroom. We asked for no money; we didn’t need to increase the state budget to get this done. Every teacher that opened their doors LOVED the lesson. Every single student participated in the lesson and learned (100% engagement). This was in public and private schools; high performing classrooms and ones filled with special needs students. While the successes were many, we were dismayed that over 90% of our requests to teachers were ignored. Many teachers, even after hearing of our lesson’s success said, “No thank you, I already have my lessons planned for this YEAR”. This is the reality of most classrooms – teachers claim to want help; but they really want to be left alone. A local business wants to be engaged; but is turned away. Schools call businesses for sponsorships and donations; but rarely ask for help teaching the context of lessons.
To think that every business and every industry is equipped to do what the construction industry has done with its model lesson plans is not practical. What does more sense is to better train teachers about how what they teach is used in the world of work, the world outside of school, the world where their students will spend their lives, the world where they will be employed. This can be accomplished through Governor Kasich’s idea of asking teachers to spend a week a year with a local business. This idea is not about getting teachers to better understand business; it is about creating better community relations, better partnerships and better teaching context. No teacher interested in improving results should oppose this idea. Parents and business leaders need to wake up and support this idea or our schools will continue to fail us.
"By lowering graduation standards to a point that everyone graduates, the state of Ohio has made the high school diploma virtually worthless."
Some recent articles and headlines have stated that the Ohio Department of Education is already looking to soften its freshly minted new rules for high school graduation (going into effect for the class of 2018 and beyond). Educators across the state are saying that the new end of course exams (replacing the Ohio Graduation Tests) are too hard and, unless changed, graduation rates will soon fall. Millennials are already the “everyone gets a trophy” generation; are we now trying to add “everyone gets a diploma”?
As an economist, I’m here to tell you that decreasing the graduation rate in Ohio might actually be a good thing. Let’s start with the basics. In general economic terms, when you significantly increase the supply of something, the price and value of the product falls. By lowering graduation standards to a point that everyone graduates, the state of Ohio has made the high school diploma virtually worthless. Think if everyone had a new Cadillac - it would be hard to sell one.
Everyone knows there are large numbers of students that should not go to college. Unfortunately, most educators seem unwilling to differentiate between those ready for college and those who are not – they want to give them all the same diploma. If the state chooses to maintain its new higher (harder) standard and fewer students graduate, the diploma would mean more, be worth more, and could act as a better indicator of those ready for college.
Yes, I know it sounds heartless to encouraging creation of a system that graduates less and fails more. Thankfully, it does not have to be so harsh. The new graduation requirements already allow for “earning industry credentials” as an alternative pathway to earn a diploma. This is the perfect option for a student who is not college bound and/or struggles in certain academic areas. The problem is that most schools are not connected with industries to understand these options and how to connect their students to them. Therefore, they’d rather just make the academic tests easier. This does an extreme disservice to the students and the community.
Did you know there is a projected 2 million worker shortage in construction and the average skilled trades person earns over $50,000 per year after only a few years of on-the-job training? Let’s leave the current new graduation system alone. Let’s set a high bar for academic performance that becomes a true indicator of college readiness while encouraging our students to consider a wide variety of industry credentials rather than trying to put every student on a “college track”. There is absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging young people to consider careers in the trades, earning middle class income, without college debt.
For more information go to ovcef.org
Are you one of those who believe that there are people who go to work every day as construction “workers”? Do you believes these mythical creatures exist? There are super-people who show up and build schools, office buildings, hospitals, roads and bridges? I assume you must also believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.
If you believe in construction “workers”, you think someone just wakes up one day and decides to go to “work” construction. You believe that they can just walk onto a jobsite and be productive. You believe that the same individual who does the ground work also sets the steel, raises the walls, runs the wiring, installs the heating, puts on the roof, installs the glass, etc. One construction “worker” does it all. Ok, not just one of these super-people, you believe there are thousands of these “workers” who get it done.
Let’s set the story straight – THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A CONSTRUCTION “WORKER”! Yet, people still believe. They are good people like you; just unaware of the reality of the industry. Unfortunately, many believers are also elected officials who continually fail to invest statewide and regional training dollars into the construction industry leaving thousands of middle class career opportunities unfilled. Other believers are parents and school counselors who fail to encourage young people to consider a career in construction, instead pushing them into college and mountains of debt. Are you ready for the reality?
The term construction “worker” is an insult to every hard working skilled tradesperson in the industry today. No one wakes up one day and becomes a productive member of the construction industry the next. We are not “workers” and the construction industry offers no “jobs”. We are highly trained Ironworkers, Cement Finishers, Masons, Electricians, Plumbers, Safety Engineers, Glaziers, HVAC Technicians, Roofers, to name only a few. Our skills are formed in the classroom, in the lab, and on the job under controlled guidelines and supervision. We take tests for certifications and licensure. We are regulated and monitored just like accountants and teachers; but unlike those “jobs”, our education is usually paid in full by the employer while we are paid to work while learning the trade. Great career without the debt.
Our nation depends on its infrastructure; our economy cannot move forward without investment in capital resources. Skilled Tradespeople do this work; but our industry faces a skilled labor shortage that is projected to grow to 1.1 million workers during the next decade. This means that construction presents tremendous opportunities for those interested in joining an industry in which Americans have built lucrative careers for generations. Please do your part and stop believing in construction “workers”, then go encourage someone to look into the skilled trades. Visit ovcef.org or careers.abc.org to learn more about construction careers.
To Merit Shop Construction Companies – ABC helps find future construction workers, Training for Increased Productivity
RE: Finding Competent and Qualified Workers Now
Making Current workers more productive
Building a pipeline of Future Workers
Even if you are not a current Ohio Valley ABC member, if you need workers now, are concerned about finding future workers, or would like your current workers to be more productive, be aware that we can help. Call me today to discuss how. Read on for more details.
A few years ago, other merit shop construction companies like yours (on the Ohio Valley ABC board of directors) began to dedicate ABC resources into outreach and workforce development. They saw a bleak future for finding construction workers and pledged resources to do something about it. Today, Ohio Valley ABC has extensive relationships that stretch from middle school through adult education and into social service organization programs from N.KY through all of Ohio.
Every month, our www.ovcef.org – Find a Career in Construction portal brings us leads on individuals interested in working for companies like yours. Our CORE Pre-Apprenticeship programs will churn out 60-80 people with OSHA 10, Hand tools, Construction Math and Drawings, Rigging Certificates as well as hands on lab and on-site job experiences. These are “ready to hire” individuals.
Later this year, our Craft Leadership program will be available to help grow your current craft workers in foreman or project managers. Also in the fall, our apprenticeship year begins. We have a 21st century training model that helps employees better understand their trade and improves productivity in the field for both apprentices and journeymen. A small investment yields large returns. Would you pay your guys $1/hr more if they were 20% more productive?
In October, volunteers from companies like yours will be visiting classrooms all around our region, talking to young people about careers in construction. We are “planting seeds” and will eventually harvest some of these young people as our future workers.
If you need help finding workers, want to expand/improve your employee productivity or just want to grow your business and make more money, email or call me today. 1-800-686-6440.
When the presidential election finally comes around this year, regardless of the two candidates, it is very likely that it will be close race. Presidential Races are always hotly contested and rarely ever result in “blowout” victories. In history, there have been times when one candidate wins the popular vote; but loses the election in the Electoral College process. In others, the winner received less than 50% of the popular vote. Regardless of how they won, whether by millions of votes or hundreds, or on technicalities, the winner has ALWAYS immediately proclaimed that the country has given them a “mandate” to move forward. The loser concedes the race and the country moves on. Oh, how I wish that were true in local politics.
In November 2015, there was an election in which the citizens of Miami Township were asked to vote on a proposed increase in their taxes to fund additional moneys for road maintenance and construction. The Township Trustees, elected by the people, put forward their recommendation for an increase and asked the people who elected them for permission to proceed – by putting a tax levy on the ballot. As many have said before, elections have consequences and in this one, the voters gave their elected officials a clear mandate. By election standards, an overwhelming majority of voters (53%) voted AGAINST the township requested 2mil tax increase. The voter’s message was clear. They did not believe that that Miami Township needed additional funds to proceed with its plans for street resurfacing. Many even argued that the township has a long record of poorly spending the money already funded to them. Regardless of why, the voters heard the Township’s arguments and subsequently voted NO. So, how did the Township Trustees react to this mandate given to them by those same people who elected them? In January 2016, with the last election barely over, they voted to put the EXACT SAME 2mil roads levy back on the ballot!
Even after losing the election, Miami Township officials are so arrogant that they have not even bothered to change their argument for passing the levy. On the current Miami Township website, they have simply re-posted the same “study” that was shared prior to the defeat of the road levy in November. The message that these elected officials in Miami Township are making here is clear: “Hey, all you guys who voted in November – you are clearly stupid. Read what we posted last time and get it right this time.” Or perhaps they are saying, “We don’t care that you elected us to work at your request, We request that you give us more taxes to do what we (3) first term trustees decide is right.”
Imagine if after the Presidential election in November, the losing party had a quick meeting and was given the chance to force another vote in March. Ludicrous right? Yet, it happens all the time with local issues and tax levy requests. Well, I am hoping that way more than 53% of the folks in Miami Township send the same message back to Miami Township in March and vote NO - AGAIN. Then, perhaps when those Trustees are up for election, they can be replaced for clearly ignoring the mandate of the voters. Elections have consequences.
Author - John Morris, President