My Turn: Career and Technical Education Month

When your car breaks down on the side of the road, where do you have it towed? Do you take it home, roll into the garage and start tinkering with it until you get it working again? If you are like me, those days are over. After I sold my 1967 Volkswagen Beetle because I got tired of working on it every weekend and bought a “new” car (only 10 years old), I came to the quick realization that there isn’t much under the hood I actually recognize anymore except the battery. So when my car breaks down now I am at the mercy of the friendly neighborhood mechanic to service my vehicle. Thank goodness the mechanic has had years of training and experience working on the ever evolving and complex systems that run my vehicle, because frankly I wouldn’t know where to start.

So, do you ever wonder how the mechanic got the training to work on your complicated car? How about the carpenter who remodels your house; the folks who keep the ferries running; or the nurse’s assistant who is taking care of your elderly parent: who trained them? I know the answer.

I have the privilege to work at the University of Alaska Southeast -School of Career Education where dedicated professionals have turned their passion for their vocations into career and technical educational programs in which students learn workforce skills. Career Education is the school where you will find the professors who teach people how to keep our cars working, our Alaska Marine Highway ferry engines running smoothly, make our homes warm, healthy and durable dwellings and take care of us when we are ill or injured.

In a speech to the Northern Virginia Community College in Alexandria Virginia, President Obama described career and technical education as the backbone of our nation. “I see a United States where this nation is able to out-compete every country on Earth, where we continue to be the world’s engine for innovation and discovery. I see a future where we train workers who make things here in the United States, and continue a important and honorable tradition of folks working with their hands, creating value, not just shuffling paper. That’s part of what has built the American Dream”. (June 8, 2011)

February is Career and Technical Education month. The University of Alaska Southeast -School of Career Education will be showing off our professors, programs and our facilities. We invite you to free “Saturday Sessions” that are open to the public every weekend in February. There will be sessions on getting your marine cooling system ready for spring, diesel pickup maintenance, changing your door threshold, getting a building permit and a discussion on careers in the health care industry. See you at “Saturday Sessions” with the School of Career Education.

• Gilcrist is the Associate Dean of the School of Career Education-Juneau programs. She also teaches computer aided drafting and design within the Construction Technology program.

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