Education: Diverse economy needs diverse job training

Harrison County education officials are working on programs they believe will genuinely prepare students for their next steps after graduation — even if that does not mean a four-year college education.

Administrators and members of the board of education recently met with representatives of the local aerospace companies to discuss development of technical education classes that would prepare kids for work in that industry.

According to another media outlet, Tom Rhine, manager at aerospace manufacturing company Pratt and Whitney, said his company employs more than 1,200 skilled positions in Harrison County alone.

“There is no one set of skills that we’re looking for,” he said. “But we would love to have someone who can come into our building who has a really deep appreciation for aerospace. More than someone who is just looking for a job, we want someone who develops themselves in aviation and aerospace.”

In fact, WVNews reported Tracy Miller, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex, believes students who take aerospace education classes could help feed the industry’s growth.

West Virginia’s economy is diversifying, despite some politicians’ attempts to keep us chained to a single industry. That diversification looks different in each part of the state. For North Central West Virginia, there might be more need to give high school students an early edge in medical, pharmaceutical or aerospace skills. For the Mid-Ohio Valley, educators understand there might be a need for courses that prepare students for oil, natural gas and downstream petrochemical work.

What about tourism and hospitality work? Information technology? At one time, high schools in West Virginia did offer career prep tracks that matched local needs. It may be time to consider a return to such a strategy — with an accompanying emphasis on basic employment skills such as being on time, dressing and behaving appropriately in a work environment, and being able to take direction and constructive criticism.

Bravo to the county school systems working, amid all their challenges, to find new ways to truly educate our children, and prepare them to be part of the next generation workforce — right here at home.