Blog: It's Time For the LAUSD to Create a Trade-Tech Diploma

Our community still needs plumbers, mechanics, construction workers, masons and electricians.

In recent years the Los Angeles Unified School District has focused its curriculum almost entirely on preparing students for college. While attempting to prepare every student for college is certainly an admirable and understandable goal, it is not a realistic one. First of all, not every student wants to go to college. Secondly, a college-bound curriculum is not well-suited for some students. This situation has resulted in numerous students leaving the LAUSD (some graduating and some not) without the skills necessary to find good jobs in our community.

In recent years career and technical training has been eliminated from our public schools. Our schools no longer teach students the trades. The wood-shop and machine-shop classes that were offered when I was in school are no longer offered.

The elimination of career and technical training and trade classes has resulted in many students being left behind. This is harmful to our community in numerous ways.  We no longer have high school graduates that are ready to begin a career in welding, masonry, metal work, plumbing, the hospitality industry, or in countless other important trades. These are important jobs, good-paying jobs, and jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.  Yet our public school district has eliminated classes that train students for these careers that enable them to enter the workplace with a good job upon graduation.

There is another serious problem that has developed since career and technical classes have been eliminated—more students drop out of school. Career and technical training and trade classes are classes that some students will excel in, and offering those classes will give those students a reason to stay in school and graduate.  By not offering career and technical classes, students interested in numerous trade-tech careers are being told that they don't matter—that they are not important—that if they are not "college bound" they are not a good "fit" for the LAUSD. We are sending the wrong message to these students. Our schools belong to our community. And as a community we are harming their chances of being productive members of society as adults.

I believe the LAUSD should should reinstate career and technical training and trade classes, including wood-shop, machine-shop, graphic design, drafting, and construction-related classes. I believe the LAUSD should also create a trade-tech diploma so students that choose a path other than college have an additional reason to stay in school, to work hard, and to graduate with a diploma that will help them get a job in a field that interests them and in which they have been trained.

Students that decide to seek a trade-tech diploma would have the choice to elect the trade-tech route after the 10th grade.

There are many ways that the LAUSD can cover the costs of the trade-tech curriculum. It is very likely that the trade-tech curriculum would be cost/revenue neutral because many students that seek the trade-tech route will be spending more time on campus and in class which will increase the amount of "ADA" (Average Daily Attendance) funds received by their school.

Furthermore, additional revenue covering the cost of the trade-tech curriculum would be created through internship opportunities with the private business sector. Students could participate in work-study programs where a company pays into a program that enables students to spend time working for the company to gain on-the-job experience. Obviously, students that do a good job as an intern through such a work-study program would have a leg-up in getting a full-time job after graduation with the company the student interned for.

There may also be opportunities for state, federal, and private grants as a result of such a new job-placement program within the LAUSD.

Finally, a quote from Michael Theriault, writing for the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, in an article titled, "The Return of Shop to City Schools," sums up the academic benefits of a trade-tech curriculum:

"[Shop] acquaints students with its ties to mathematics and the sciences. It could point toward possibilities in the arts, which arise in one degree or another from craftsmanship. Through discussions of its materials—wood, metal, rubber, plastic—it could point toward history classes, and through the materials those classes could draw the student into study of the Industrial Revolution, colonialism, conquest of native peoples, systems of government, and on and on. The shop class could even give practical lessons in English; imagine, for example, an exercise in which a student is handed an incomplete specification for some required task and to complete it is made to write an RFI. On finishing the shop class a student should have some idea of how to answer the question, ‘What use is x in my life?’—and we could substitute for x any of the litany of usually detested classes."

As mayor, I will be a strong advocate for education reform with both the LAUSD and in Sacramento. You can read more about my education platform here, including my creation of an Education Information Officer within the mayor's office and an education liaison who will serve as an education advisor within the mayor's office.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jennifer N November 27, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Yes yes yes! Why are these professions looked down upon by the academic community? If you say these things in Any LAUSD meeting you're accused of having low expectations for students, or worse, of being racist. Yet I just wrote a check to my plumber for 3 times my hourly rate as a teacher, and many engineers started out in shop class. LAUSD needs to stop wasting millions on programs and personnel that chase test scores, and start spending on turning students into productive members of society.
Dspencer November 28, 2012 at 01:04 AM
It's time to weed out the underachievers and tell them "hey, remember when we said that you can be anything you wanted to be when you grow up ? well, now, you can really only be just one of these two things, ok ?" yay. the american dream !
AMEN! As owner of Flam's lock and key I have professed this for years. An equally large problem is the loss of qualified candidates in all the trades. We have been looking for an locksmith for the last year with no success even in this recession. It is not a new problem but getting worse. Abram Freidman school of locksmithing just closed its doors after 35 years and was the best trade school for decades. The only trade schools left are rip offs that charge a fortune and and lstill leave us with unqualified trainees. Let us also not forget that all of you, as consumers who need the trades, require expertise that is dying and you don't know if you are calling is qualified. Most are not! Last, as a small business owner for so many years, we were asked for our imput at our state assemblyman's office this year about jobs. I specifically told him about the need to help small business train for the trades and he was NOT AWARE of the problem and would address it. I told him everytime minimum wage is raised it is more costly to train and there should be a special program to subsidize us. It is real job creation! He retired in November. Yours in security, Vikki Flam
Stephan Early November 28, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Best article we have looked at in a long time. Our students are short changed by a misguided sense of possible student achievement which brings us back to our basic attitude towards what use to be called "Blue Collar" workers. A college degree does not automatically mean you are a superior human being and yet in our materialistic, class conscious society we denigrate the laborer skilled and otherwise. Showing proper respect for all human beings and respect for honest labor would go a long way toward freeing up our students to go in to programs where there is a real need and they may have an aptitude. Finally it's good for the country and the economy. You can't ship the electricians, the plumbers, the carpenters, the locksmiths, job overseas. They live and work in the community. If they join Unions they will be good consumers because they will make a living wage. The way it is set up now we spend way too much time trying to get the kinesthetic learner to embrace abstract concepts and when they don't we demote and marginalize them until, finally, we send them to occupational school where, in implied disgrace, they learn a trade. Aldus Huxley spoke about this in the fifties he spoke about the amount of respect and recompense a women might receive if her great skill were to be able to comfort and quiet a crying child. The answer is practically none, child care workers are the lowest paid and least unionized in the society.
Barbara Krause November 28, 2012 at 04:53 PM
I hope that this concept comes to fruition; skills so needed and jobs for many.
Barbara Krause November 28, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Fine idea to educate in these skills and more job opportunities should be available for those qualified in this way.
carolyn rios November 28, 2012 at 11:47 PM
As a teacher of at-risk youth who barely graduate with low C's and never never seem to get past one or two even community college classes, I heartily endorse this. There are some teens who should just quite school at 16/maybe 17, spen 9 months, two years learning something real, and just get on with their lives. My most successful students were the ones who came back and had an uncle, an older brother, a neighbor teach them a real skill. Teens who did not have that chance did the drug, the pregnancy, the bagger route. As s homeowner, I am willing to pay good money to someone who can fix it the first time in a professional manner Thank you for pushing this concept.
Barbara Krause November 28, 2012 at 11:49 PM
As a former teacher I have long felt the need for more focus on education of trade skills.
Jo November 29, 2012 at 06:37 AM
This is why we all must vote for Kevin James for Mayor. Kevin James is the ONLY outsider. All the others participated in the biggest giveaway to the public unions that are bankrupting our city with their extremely lavish pensions and retiree benefits. We will be the highest taxed city in the nation at 9.75% sales tax if the idiots in this city vote yes for yet another tax increase. Thousands Oaks's sales tax will be almost 2 percent less. Vote all the insider retreads OUT. Our city is heading for bankruptcy and we need a common sense mayor after all these years of wife cheating, incompetent Mayor Villar.
Alex November 29, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I agree completely. Even though I hated those classes when in school, I found again and again that understanding basic principles of woodshop and metalwork, and how to use different tools and for what makes me a good handy husband. And again, every time I buy a furniture from IKEA or Walmart, and seeing my high school 15yrs old son being unable to follow simple directions and assemble it.... Well, I bet there must be a required class for that, rather than for gay history.
Robert D. Skeels November 30, 2012 at 08:16 AM
Although Mr. James and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, I agree that the elimination of vocational and trade-tech education in our district has been an abject disaster. We need to empower students to pursue their passions, not limit them with narrow curricula, and one-size-fits-all expectations. While I oppose the rest of Mr. James' education agenda, which is hopelessly right-wing and reactionary, I do agree strongly with him on this. As a candidate for the LAUSD School Board, let me go on record as saying I want to restore vocational and trade-tech education choices for students wanting careers in line with their interests and passions.
Dodd Harris December 04, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Completely agree! We have seen the results of the unrealistic "self-esteem" movement: You can't tell a student that their talents lie elsewhere, you can't recommend anything but matriculation to a 4 year college, anything practical or blue-collar is considered an institutional failure. Here is what I know: Take a "C" student high school graduate who knows how to be a plumber and he will EARN at least $200,000 in the four years (or more realistically 5 years) while his counterpart in college will SPEND $100,000 (plus several years of under-employment) add in Pell grants and lost income taxes that the trade school grad will be paying and I would venture to say that society would probably see a net gain of at least $200,000 for every average student that they train in a trade, versus a college degree.
nonoise December 09, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Yes!! Someone that understands a broken system and how to fix it. Kevin James for mayor!


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