Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Dec. 28) – A program within the Guam Public School System aims to train and prepare students for vocational fields, such as construction trades, tourism, health care and telecommunications.

The Passport-to-Careers program offers students practical, hands-on training and experience over the summer and during school breaks, with an aim to offer year-round employment experiences. It's a cooperative effort involving the school system, several government agencies and the business community. It's a good program, but we need to take it further.

Many employers have said that Guam's work force lacks even basic skills. Expanding vocational training in the public schools will help improve the quality of our work force. A better vocational program in our high schools means more workers who not only have the basic skills employers require, but real experience and hands-on training as well.

It's critical that we once again centralize vocational education, instead of spreading it out thinly among all the high schools. According to education department estimates, only about 20 percent of public school graduates go on to college. And that doesn't include the numbers of high-school dropouts.

That means that 80 percent of high school graduates would greatly benefit from vocational education and training, no matter what the field. Also, let's remember that there's nothing to prevent those who graduate with a vocational diploma from going to college.

These students will still need a solid education in reading, writing and math, but those subjects can be provided with career training, such as Guam Community College's high school used to do. We need to go back to that model to expand and strengthen vocational education on Guam.

With the large number of high school graduates who don't go on to college, we should consider retooling the high schools to better meet these needs. Perhaps two of the high schools can become college preparatory schools, while the rest are converted and expanded to handle vocational education.

December 28, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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