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Guest Column

Our future is in their hands

valued workers by Don C. Brunell, President, Association of Washington Business
As the time for high school graduations approaches, I vividly remember my dad pounding into my head the importance of a college education. In his mind, unless I completed college, I would be doomed to a life of working in the copper mines.
   My father--along with a lot of other parents--equated a college education with status and success.
   Ironically, many of these folks are skilled craftsmen and women who are proud electricians, plumbers, or pipefitters. Yet it seems as though our society views them as second-class citizens--people who work with their hands, people who couldn't make it through college.
   Pundits urge everyone to go to college, saying a college degree is the thing that will divide the "haves" from the "have nots" in the 21st Century.
   But the fact is two-thirds of the high school students graduating from high school in June will not go to college. They will either directly enter the work force, go to a community or technical college, or enlist in the armed forces.
   These young people are not second-class citizens, they are valued workers, the backbone of our work force. It is these frontline workers who will fix our computers, wire skyscrapers, and build the things the rest of us need and use everyday.
   How well these folks do their jobs will have a big influence on whether our nation succeeds or fails in the 21st Century. So why would we think they have less value than a school teacher, a doctor, or lawyer? We should change that kind of attitude, and the sooner the better.
   Without skilled craftsmen like my father, doctors, lawyers, and school teachers would be reading their work by candlelight.