Dr. Kathy D'Antoni, associate state superintendent of schools, delivered an important message to the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce and to the community in general on Wednesday.
That message: Young people do not have to attend a college or university at a cost of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to have successful lives and careers.
West Virginia offers valuable technical education to high school graduates in 35 special fields, and taking advantage of such training can be the perfect solution for young people who can't or don't want to attend a college or university.
D'Antoni said the state's technical education opportunities offer something for just about everyone. There are 53 specialities and 88 career pathways
And yet, only 30 percent of high school graduates take advantage of the programs.
Why? Because many people, students and parents, mistakenly think "higher education" is the only path to success, and because there's a stigma attached to technical education. "Smart" kids go to college. The others go to technical centers.
That is so wrong that words escape us, and if you doubt it, try envisioning the average college sophomore wiring your basement or replacing the fuel pump on your car. There's "smart," and then there's "smart."
There's already a desperate need for skilled workers in many fields, and we get a sense of that by reading The Inter-Mountain's help-wanted ads every day of the week. There's a need, and it's growing.
In fact, D'Antoni says that by the year 2020 (only six years from now), the demand for home health aides, financial analysts, iron workers, veterinarian assistants, pipefitters, physical therapy assistants and a host of other occupations will rise by nearly 70 percent.
Take note, high school students. If college is not for you, for whatever reason, you can succeed beyond your wildest expectations by learning what's being taught in high school, by graduating and by enrolling in a local career technical or vocational center.
Success is out there; you just have to reach for it.