Over the last few decades, and especially in recent years, the United States has seen a rapid decline in high school shop class offerings. But as politicians and company owners attempt to give the American manufacturing industry a boost, school-aged kids are still graduating without the basic technical knowledge they need to succeed in the field.
While more and more schools are reinstating shop class with a modern twist, others seem to be forgetting that, in spite of technological advancements and the increasing accessibility of a college degree, hands-on skills are still a necessity for young people entering the workforce right after high school.
Here, we take a look at three important reasons why shop class is slowly (but surely) making a return to the high school curriculum:
- Manufacturers Desperately Need Skilled Workers.
For years, skills-based study has played second fiddle to the so-called softer disciplines like math, science, and literature. As educators encouraged youngsters to shoot for college degrees, the manufacturing industry’s most valuable workers started to age out of their careers, leaving companies at a new-hire standstill.
Now, in a job market that’s over-saturated with degree-holding candidates, trade skills are more valuable than ever. In fact, a 2015 Deloitte study concluded that the skills gap will grow to 2 million by 2025, meaning that young people who understand basic manufacturing principles and can put them to practice will be at an advantage over their college educated peers.
- Hands-On Learning Boosts Academic and Workplace Confidence.
A 2013 Stanford study found that students thrive when they see first-hand that academic principles actually work in the real world. Hands-on learning helps students become more adept at grasping complex concepts and applying their knowledge to non-academic situations.
One advantage shop class students have over those in traditional classes is that they have room for trial and error. The flexibility to make mistakes and learn from them can boost a student’s problem solving and critical thinking skills, the benefits of which can be seen both academically and professionally. According to the Deloitte study, company manufacturers look upon these skills sets as essentials for success in the manufacturing industry.
- Technology is Revolutionizing the Field.
Perhaps the most important factor in the sudden return of shop class is new technology. In an academic climate where technology is overpowering many traditional learning methods, educators are discovering that they need to re-imagine the way they keep their tech-obsessed students engaged.
With the advent of 3D printing and other computer-controlled shop tools, teachers are suddenly realizing that technology and workshop practices are not mutually exclusive. This has prompted a shift in the way schools market shop class to parents and students. Newly implemented tech-infused shop classes are now helping students get their creative juices flowing and bring their ideas to life, all while instilling them with important skills that they can apply to real-life situations down the road.
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