W.Va. hopes tech-voc education will remedy skills gap, opioid crisis
- West Virginia wants to revive technical-vocational education in an effort to turn around the state's economy, The New York Times (NYT) reports. Based on statistics from the Social Science Research Council, 17% of West Virginia's young adults are neither working nor in school, a rate surpassed only by New Mexico, NYT says.
- Educators are hoping to get the students ready for higher-skilled jobs in areas such as equipment maintenance or environmental compliance, instead of entry-level or dangerous jobs, such as laying pipeline, according to the report. As part of the training, students are given titles such as foreman or safety supervisor, punch a time clock and are allowed several vacation days.
- The program will soon add drug-testing, which officials told NYT also will prepare students for the workforce. West Virginia has a serious opioid-addiction problem, which is compelling more employers to conduct drug-testing.
Stakeholders have yet to agree on what's causing the disconnect between the millions of unemployed workers and the millions of open jobs. Highly-skilled workers report difficultly finding work while employers say they have the jobs, just not the skilled workers needed to fill them.
In June, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to redirect $100 million from federal job-training programs to create new apprenticeships. But experts say roll backs made elsewhere could undercut those initiatives. Instead, some have taken matters into their own hands, teaming up with colleges or other businesses to train workers in the skills employers need.