With few students seeking a college degree, some say its time to bring vocational education back to the classroom.
Fresno County's new superintendent of schools says its time to recognize the value and professionalism of people who work with their hands. This past week students and parents got to see up close what vocational education careers look like.
During College Night, Fresno County students are given the opportunity to connect with colleges from all over the country. Clovis East senior Rachel Despain, 17, and her mother were among the hundreds who attended. They said they have always planned for Rachel to go to college.
"From the time I was younger I've been told for the most part I was going to go to college," said Despain, "I have taken some AP courses and honor courses to prepare myself."
Preparing students for college has been the focus of most high schools for the past two decades. A college education is seen as that one pathway to success.
Jim Yovino, Fresno County's new Superintendent of Schools believes not enough emphasis is placed on vocational education and he is aiming to change that starting with the first ever Career Tech-Night.
"College is a choice we have to remember that it is one choice to success. That honorable work that people do with their hands around this valley is also a great choice," said Yovino, "We start by letting the community know as professionals in education, we also have to realize that there are professional people who work with their hands."
The Fresno County Office of Education and its regional occupation program brought together top employers and companies such as PG&E, Harris Construction, and Cummins West giving parents a close up look at a career path some students have not been exposed too.
Keith Dudek, a school bus driver, said the trades need to be taught in area high schools. Crop coordinator Anthony Ayerza agrees but he said educators must also find a way to address the misconception that vocational education is for students not bright enough for college.
What many experienced at the event went a long way in changing old attitudes about career education.
"All I've ever heard is 'go to college, that's where the money is.' Like you won't get a job without going to college. But here I've seen a lot of career opportunities that don't require a college degree. They seem really interesting to me and they pay really well," said Blaine Hoskin, Edison High junior.
Educators say that hands-on classes are often more engaging for students
So many not only see vocational education as a way to meet the demand for skilled workers but also lower the high school drop out rate.