Oregon focuses much of its scarce educational resources on the achievement gap while the skills gap widens. Oregon has the worst dropout rate for white students in the nation. Expanding career technical education is an effective way to improve our abysmal graduation rate, prepare students for middle-class jobs, and support manufacturing and innovation that drives our economic engine.
Investments in advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) are also critical to attracting and retaining high-wage jobs that grow our revenue base to fund schools and social services.
While Oregon's unemployment rate remains high, well-paid positions go unfilled because of the lack of a skilled workforce. Advanced manufacturers such as Vigor Industrial and Gunderson have created their own welding training programs because of a shortage of workers for high-demand fields that pay $45,000 a year and up.
Advanced manufacturing jobs pay better than non-manufacturing jobs and offer economic equity, according to an ECONorthwest study. The 2013 Oregon Business Plan rates strengthening K-12 education in technology, high-tech, manufacturing and software as extremely important, yet Portland Public Schools, Oregon's largest school district, is gutting the very programs that drive our economic engine.