Polling finds that parents are more amenable to tech education than we think they are
By Lynn Shelton
Enterprise Minnesota's Vice President of Marketing
(Lynn Shelton, vice president of marketing, Enterprise Minnesota)
Most small or midsized manufacturers will usually name parents among the obstacles that prevent young people from planning a tech career. You’ll find those references all through the focus group transcripts that appear in our annual State of Manufacturing® book. This year’s book will be released online on May 17 and will be free for all attendees of 2018 State of Manufacturing events.
Parents, they say, are obsessed with seeing their high school graduate pursue a four-year university degree; anything less—a two-year tech degree, for example-would represent settling for second best. They stigmatize. Forget that only one in five American jobs requires a four-year degree (as it has been since the ‘50s); forget that most four-year degrees strap their recipients with a lifetime of oppressive debt; and forget the recent study from Center of the American Experiment that demonstrated how two-year tech grads can earn up to 61 percent more than their four-year counterparts (when you factor in college debt).
Curiously, only one focus group this year didn’t reinforce that stereotype: Parents. Just as we added students to the list of our focus groups a few years ago, this year we enlisted a group of Lakeville parents (most with current or recent high schoolers). They disagreed. They agreed almost universally that there is serious career value in pursuing two-year technical degrees, while also admitting they didn’t know enough about the two-year career opportunities that are available in this market.
Added to this is an interesting poll question recently fielded statewide by American Experiment (also conducted by our State of Manufacturing pollster, Rob Autry). Only 27 percent thought “a four-year degree is necessary to achieve the American Dream; 66 percent thought that “obtaining the knowledge or skills needed to do a specific job in today’s economy” was valued more than a four-year degree.
This leaves hard questions for educators, and an obligation for all of us to help supply the answers.
The State of Manufacturing® 2018
Minneapolis - May 17
Redwood Falls - May 22
Duluth - May 24
Morris - June 1
Owatonna - June 5
St. Cloud - June 12