indexYesterday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at a College Opportunity Summit reiterated the virtue of the value of education and how it can inspire and improve one’s life.

The First Lady stated, “And for many students, that might mean attending a college or university like the ones many of you represent.  For others, it might mean choosing a community college.  It might mean pursuing short-term professional training.”

Again she mentioned, “And so we’ve got to re-commit ourselves to helping these kids pursue their education.  And as you discussed in your first panel today, one of the first steps is getting more underserved young people onto college campuses.  The fact is that right now we are missing out on so much potential because so many promising young people — young people who have the talent it takes to succeed — simply don’t believe that college can be a reality for them.

What is missing from her remarks is the value of vocational training and the vast amount people it would inspire to succeed.  My own brother, who has vast talents in his hands that I just do not have, makes a six figure income working as a construction superintendent in California’s Bay Area…without a college degree. 

The president even commented, “And higher education speaks to something more than that.  The premise that we’re all created equal is the opening line in our American story.  And we don’t promise equal outcomes; we’ve strived to deliver equal opportunity — the idea that success does not depend on being born into wealth or privilege, it depends on effort and merit.  You can be born into nothing and work your way into something extraordinary.  And to a kid that goes to college, maybe, the first in his or her family, means everything.”

Both the first lady and the president have entirely missed the point here.  They speak of leveling the playing field but in the same breath they are creating an unequal playing field by focusing attention only on obtaining a college degree. It is true that the premise that we are all created equal is paramount in the American story, but it never was intended to suggest a guarantee of equal outcome, only opportunity. Freedom of choice dictates that resolve.

A missing component of their comments – where is the emphasis on vocational training? In the United States, many times people look at vocational training in a demeaning and derogatory manner like if you did not graduate from college there is something wrong with you. Yes, there are many vocational programs that are held on college and community college campuses nationwide, but there are likely just as many that are not.

With the unemployment rate stubbornly high and millions still looking for work but cannot find it, and companies complaining they can’t find skilled workers; investing in vocational training would be a great way to remedy this situation!

In August of last year, The National Association of Manufacturers said that they have about 600,000 jobs that are open because employers cannot find workers with the skills that they need.

The IT industry has been reporting problems of not finding the quality and skills needed, and are looking at other avenues to increase this deficiency, including immigration.

For decades the country has invested billions in preventing the despicable dropout rate in this country and increasing the number of students who enter college, but have failed to invest sufficiently in vocational training.

Not every person is geared for college; some would rather work with their hands; or like many people I know, their talents lay in a constant moving and involving structure that college just does not offer.

Germany realizes that not everyone is suited for college and still values them as an integral part of their economy. Far too often this country views them as a victim or a failure if they didn’t choose the collegiate path to success.

Although not specifically stated in their comments, this is clearly the sentiment of our current president and administration. This sort of myopic and elitist thinking has to end.  Many in the vocational field often pay more than someone who graduated with a four-year degree. The IT field could use the experience of many of the tech savvy millennial generation as we face the continued threats associated with identity threat.  One only has to look at Target and Neiman Marcus who had customers’ credit information compromised.

Currently the debate in Washington is extending federal unemployment benefits for three months, at the cost of $6 billion dollars, after already having spent $300 billion since 2008. This money could have been better spent on viable re-training for millions of laid off workers; these jobs cannot be outsourced.

Let’s have a comprehensive look at reforming U.S. education, but let’s also look at re-allocating resources to training Americans in the multitudes of vocational field.  After all, this is truly what made this country great.