Friday, May 25 , 2018, 5:53 am | Fair 50º


Today’s High School Students Learning There Are Different Degrees of Success

With a four-year college degree not the job guarantee it once was, educators get creative to expand skills-training choices for youth

In 1973, high school graduates had a 62 percent chance of finding a job for which they qualified with a college degree. Today, that number has plummeted.

“People used to have a really good chance at getting a job with a degree, and now (those chances are a lot lower),” said Ben Romo, executive director of Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

With such a competitive job market, Romo emphasizes the need for education and career success programs in high school.

“More and more education is necessary for people to compete (in today’s job market),” he said.

The programs Romo mentions can help put students on the right road to a career without the challenges confronting some recent college graduates.

Some programs are already in place. A partnership between local high schools and SBCC has helped students develop 10-year plans that outline what they must achieve during their high school and college careers, Romo said. The program allows students to hear from professionals in different fields about their careers and paths they took to get there.

This presents an array of choices for students and helps them explore possible careers, Romo said. Through mock interviews, internships and shadowing of professionals, the 10-year program helps students identify what is best for them, whether that’s a four-year degree or a two-year community college pathway to success.

“It’s all about options,” he said.

A widely held misconception is that a four-year university path is the only way to go for high school graduates. The goal of achieving a four-year degree is an excellent one, Romo is quick to acknowledge, but he cautions that it’s not the only possible route to take.

Today, 70 percent of high school graduates go on to higher education. Within that 70 percent, just 56 percent graduate from a four-year university in less than six years and only 30 percent receive an associate’s degree within three years at a community college.

“The vast amount of our students aren’t earning degrees,” Romo said.

As a result, it’s evident that the four-year degree program may not be for every student. There are more options out there for students who aren’t wired for four-year university degrees.

Through local community college programs, Romo believes students can obtain the type of skill-based training they need to quickly move into a career. He said there are many skill-based jobs that aren’t necessarily seeking students with university degrees.

“A four-year degree is very expensive,” he said.

After earning a degree, many graduates face huge student loans and other financial obligations to pay off their education. They can’t find jobs in their degree field, Romo said, so they end up taking lower paying jobs in retail or service.

Meanwhile, there is a growing need to fill manufacturing and skilled-labor positions. These industries are accepting two-year degrees or even just certification — programs that cost significantly less than a four-year education.

“There are a lot of meaningful, well-paying jobs that people can get with less than a four-year degree,” Romo said.

Nationally, finding a job after graduation has become an increasing problem as the country grapples with a chronic recession and stubbornly high unemployment, especially among that age group. Since 2009, 5.9 million Americans between the ages of 25 and 35 have moved back in with their parents — a 25 percent increase.

“We’re struggling, including college graduates,” he said.

Career success is no longer guaranteed just because you have a degree.

Through his own research, Romo said he’s found it’s important to present options and information to children at a younger age so they are better prepared for the future. He uses his young daughter, Ruby, as an example. If his child were in junior high, he said he would already be doing everything he can as a parent to “exercise every option.”

“I want her to be able to choose to go to a four-year college or not,” he said. “If she wants to go to a community college, I want to have an honest conversation with her and have her explore that option.

“I want to open doors so that she has the most options.”

However many options there are out there for students, Romo does not feel there’s a one-size-fits-all solution.

“To say that one is better than the other is too simplistic,” Romo said. “It’s not a matter of either/or. They’re not mutually exclusive, they’re complementary.”

Noozhawk intern Alexa Shapiro can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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