Talk To Parents, Too

I am the director of Career Focused Education at Oakland Schools. I have been working with [The Newstraining and education editor] J.J. Siegel and Jesse Riojas (my instructor) on the HVACR program and what we as a partner need to do for the industry.

I want to thank you for the May 27 article “Your Assignment: Introduce Teens To This Industry”; it hits on a huge problem for us. But the issue is even greater than letting the kids know about the career.

I have been in “Voc Ed” for 20 years and it has always been thought of as the place for kids who can’t make it in college. My current position (for the past five years) is wonderful, in that Oakland Schools has the philosophy that Voc Ed — we call it Career Focused Education [CFE] — is for every child. That is why it is part of the educational system.

We begin career education and continue it K-12 and beyond. Over the past five years, we have changed, restructured, and have begun the infusion of Career Focused Education into all aspects of education: academic skills, technical skills, and workplace skills.

Our belief is that every child leaving high school in Oakland County should leave with an ability to make an informed decision as to what their next step is. We have had great success, but it is limited when we look at the need across so many careers and for our nation.

I say all this because the issue is not only talking to kids. Another issue is talking to parents! How many HVACR industry personnel would recommend their son or daughter to participate in CFE during high school? How many would feel that going into the industry via apprenticeship or work plus school programs after two years of college is as acceptable as going to four years of university? The world has changed. Industries have changed. The opportunities for great careers have changed. We have to let parents, students, and educators know that going to college does not mean you will be employed.

Let me give you some info; it may or may not help.

Only 35% of the students that enter college finish their degree. The average college career today is five to six years. Students are using college for career exploration. Not an economical advantage for parents when they can do that by participating in CFE during high school.

The average age of a community college student is 25 to 27 years old who has a BA degree and is looking for technical skills.

We are getting skilled kids into the job market later than ever before. In 1950, a Labor Department report stated we needed 20% to 25% of our population to be professional, about 60% to 70% to be unskilled, and the rest in technical jobs. Today, the Labor Department states we still need only 20% to 25% professional, but we need 70% to 75% technical and the rest unskilled. Wow, what a change! And as you know, your industry cannot use folks who aren’t trained, who don’t have academic skills, and who don’t understand workplace skills like flexibility, teamwork, and decision making.

I don’t know how to change this. A great step is the one you took. It certainly is going to take the whole community speaking to everyone about the opportunities and options students have for the future. I hear your concerns every day from every industry. I see wonderful career opportunities being unfilled by our youth and being filled by folks we import from all over the world. It is a huge issue.

As you can tell, I am passionate about this. On behalf of my whole team, thank you very much for the article.

Mary Kay Aukee, Director of Career Focused Education, Oakland County Schools, Waterford, MI

Antiquated Method

Regarding the April 1 article titled “Charging Capillary Tube Systems,” I must totally disagree with the “frost line” method of charging a capillary tube system. This method was obsolete and wrong 30 years ago. The only thing it tells you is that the suction line temperature is below freezing.

What with electronic scales and electronic thermometers, along with accurate gauges, there is no reason systems cannot be charged using the proper weights and/or superheat charging charts.

Carl Gehm, President, U.S. Industrial Air Conditioning, Inc., Denver, CO

Publication date: 06/24/2002