July 25, 2008

Raising Skill Sets, Wages Discussed at YVCC Forum

By James Joyce III, Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash.

Jul. 25--Employers and educators throughout the Yakima Valley and elsewhere in Central Washington have a few concerns they would like addressed.

Bruce Mortimer, director of career and technical education for the Yakima School District, says students are able to work on and repair a lawn mower engine, but state labor laws preclude those students from starting the engine if he or she is younger than 18.

Child labor laws were just one of the topics Thursday morning at Yakima Valley Community College during a forum with the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board. The board has compiled a draft for a 10-year strategic plan aimed at developing high skills and high wages in the state.

That coordinating board has been holding a series of similar public forums across the state.

Other areas of concern included: providing state funding for the first year of higher education after high school graduation; consideration of how a State Board of Education plan to increase the number of credits required for graduation would restrict students' options to pursue courses in career and technical education; and reworking the minor labor laws to better allow young people to gain practical work skills such as workplace safety and customer service.

Raquel Ferrell-Crowley, who teaches family consumer sciences and career and technical education at Wahluke High School, said students in rural districts like hers aren't exposed to many possible career tracks, and efforts to expose students to other jobs is expensive.

"We don't have the money to even cover transportation to connect students to career exploration," she said.

"They need to see careers in action in order to get excited about the details," said Eleni Papadakis, executive director of the workforce training and education coordinating board.

Funding for such career exploration could eventually be included in the draft plan, which can be accessed at www.wtb.wa.gov.

Papadakis said that the draft plan will be reworked after taking into consideration the tweaks from the public forums held across the state. Then, by the end of September, it will be submitted to the nine-member coordinating board for approval prior to being submitted to the legislature.

Submit comments online

n To view the latest draft of High Skills, High Wages visit, www.wtb.wa.gov/documents/hshwdraftjuly2008.pdf

n Submit comments to the Workforce Board policy analyst Madeleine Thompson at [email protected]

--James Joyce III can be reached at 577-7675 or [email protected]


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