Gathering Places


Students can get a head start
with good vocational training

During this election year, almost every candidate has advocated the need to improve public education in Hawaii. Just how to improve the system is open to debate, much of which has centered on the budget, quality of teachers, test scores and maintenance issues.

Many employers in Hawaii say our high school graduates are not prepared for the job market. They are at a disadvantage to job seekers with experience, mainly because of a lack of vocational training in high school.

For the large number of high school seniors who have no intention of going to college, entry to the work force requires that they have the knowledge and practical skills that will make them successful. Therefore, all elected officials should be asking themselves, "What should we expect of our students after a certain level of education?"

The answer is that we expect them to be industrious and productive. Public schools should understand the economic and business vision of our state and produce graduates who can carry out that vision.

The Department of Education's school-to-work partnership has teamed up with the business community for several years to teach students what it takes to succeed in the business world. But this program alone is not sufficient. A renewed focus on vocational training also is in order.

This does not mean that schools should disregard traditional educational goals. Minimum levels of knowledge are essential to provide our graduates with the flexibility needed to meet the ever-changing requirements of the job market. But vocational objectives should not be considered exclusive of a general liberal education.

Therefore, high school curricula should be tailored to student's abilities and aptitudes.

If diversified agriculture is significant, we should train students in that field. Likewise, we should train them in aquaculture, high technology, nursing, aircraft maintenance and accounting. Thus we provide meaningful skills that are immediately useful to students and their prospective employers.

The University of Hawaii, community colleges, public schools, businesses and technical schools must work together to develop a vocational program for our public schools. Through an expanded vocational program, students can gain the knowledge and skills to advance to community colleges or to be certified in their chosen fields. This would give them a running start in the business world.

We must ask ourselves how to help students make the transition from high school to the business community. This is the bridge that we must construct to develop the most effective vocational program possible for Hawaii's public schools.

David S. Matsumoto is director of the Hawaii Youth Symphony, director of New Town Estate Community Association and administration manager at Japan Airlines.

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