The Importance Of Vocational Education

[Editor's note: The following letter was originally sent to Rod Paige, secretary of the Department of Education, on July 12 on behalf of ARI, ACCA, AMCA, GAMA, HARDI, IIAR, NATE, and PHCC. These associations requested thatThe Newspublish this letter.]

"When a Job Calls, No One Answers"
- New York Times, May 9, 2004

"Construction, Service Sectors Lead Hiring Wave"
- Chicago Tribune, April 3, 2004

The above headlines underscore a growing concern that we believe threatens our nation's economic vitality and long-term stability. It is a dichotomy of events. On one hand, there is persistent unemployment as individuals scramble to find jobs. On the other hand, many industries have job openings and are searching for skilled individuals to fill these positions.

But something can be done.

The below listed organizations represent the broad spectrum of the nation's heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry. From major equipment manufacturers to distributors to contractors to service technicians, we share a common belief.

We need a change in focus in our nation's educational mission, priorities, and funding. We have the jobs available to employ thousands of individuals, and if you add our partners in other manufacturing and service industries, the available job picture could easily reach in the millions.

Unfortunately, for the past two decades, we have seen an erosion of our nation's vocational education system. Attention and resources have been given to the two- and four-year college degree programs while vocational education has been delegated to the back burner. To make matters worse, our nation's educators and counselors have put a stigma on vocational education by classifying such instruction as something less than conventional.

It is time to reverse this trend and remove the perceived stigma associated with vocational education. Our nation's economic strength and our personal quality of life are not built solely on the number of lawyers, doctors, and academicians our educational institutions can produce.

It also largely depends on the number of skilled professionals that have been trained to manufacture products in our factories in addition to those that can construct, service, and repair basic household infrastructure systems such as plumbing, electrical, and heating/air conditioning. In fact, 60 percent of tomorrow's jobs start with today's career and technical education.

Today's job market and global economy demands that employees are well trained. The basic equipment tools of yesterday will not suffice in today's job market. Knowledge in computer technology, diagnostic sciences, and electronics is a requirement in almost all occupations.

The educational system is failing the business and industrial community by not providing (or encouraging) educational opportunities in the multitude of skilled professional careers throughout industry.

Many industries, HVACR among them, have a pent-up demand for trained individuals to place on its employment roles. We want to be, and frankly can be, a solution to the nation's unemployment situation.

On behalf of the below organizations and the thousands of individuals and businesses they represent, we respectfully request to meet with you to discuss our concerns and to address opportunities to remove thousands of unemployed Americans from the ranks of the unemployed.

William G. Sutton
Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute

Paul T. Stalknecht
President & CEO
Air Conditioning Contractors of America

Barbara Morrison
Executive Director
Air Movement & Control Association

Evan Gaddis
Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association

Don Frendberg
Executive Vice President & COO
Heating, Airconditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International

M. Kent Anderson
International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration

Rex P. Boynton
North American Technician Excellence

D.L. "Ike" Casey
Executive Vice President & CEO
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors - National Association

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Publication date: 08/02/2004