In every high school's graduating class, there is a population of students who want to join the workforce rather than to spend more time in school.
Force-feeding those students the same classes as classmates who plan to attend college wastes students' and teachers' time and ends up harming the businesses that can't find workers qualified to do the work they require.
New York state can do something to help by approving a Career and Technical Education diploma. The state Board of Regents, in its December memo to the state Legislature in preparation for state budget negotiations, suggested expanding the state's financial support of career and technical education by giving BOCES and school districts more aid to help pay for career and technical education programs. The state Board of Regents should have gone a step further and recommended creation of a full Career and Technical Education diploma.
Business officials and elected representatives have spent the past few years talking about the need to do more to prepare today's youth for the workforce. Offering the Career and Technical Education diploma fits nicely with a national push to encourage students to consider careers in technology.
There is a bill in the New York state Assembly and Senate to create a Career and Technical Education diploma. Its many sponsors and co-sponsors include Sen. Joe Griffo, a Utica Republican whose district skirts the western Adirondacks up to the Canadian border. It would provide a new way to graduate from high school by incorporating career-focused classes into school programs and produce more skilled workers for technical and manufacturing companies.
A Career and Technical Education diploma isn't an easy, quick way out of high school for students who don't want to go to college. The quality of a CTE education should be just as rigorous as a Regents diploma education to certify a student with a CTE diploma is ready to work in his or her chosen field.
The state Board of Regents has been discussing the idea off and on for the past couple of years. It needs to move past the discussion phase, and this bill is a good start.