For generations most high schools offered two career paths for students. There was the academic path for the college-bound, and for those preferring to seek work straight out of high school there were vocational schools or programs teaching such skills as drafting, carpentry, welding and auto mechanics.
Many who chose the vocational path went on the make good livings as part of a broad and prosperous middle America. But as statistics show, college graduates had a clear edge finding jobs in higher-paying professions like finance, law and medicine.
These lines are now blurring, however. Part of the reason is the technological skillsets now needed to succeed in the traditional trades combined with demographics is driving compensation much higher.
What once was manual drafting is now CAD -- computer-aided design. Similarly, auto mechanics don't change out many carburetor jets these days. Cars are rolling computers that require an entire different skillset to maintain.
Many of these technical skills can be obtained over shorter duration and at less cost than a college degree. Meanwhile skilled tradesmen from the Baby Boom generation are retiring in record numbers. Pay opportunities for skilled younger workers to replace them are the best they have ever been.
These are reasons why we believe Paducah Tilghman High School's planned $24 million Innovation Hub is the right idea at the right time. The 90,000-square foot facility is expected to open in 2020. It will replace the Paducah Area Technical Center. As an article in Tuesday's Paducah Sun describes it, the facility "will provide students with up-to-date means of working on career skills and adds a 21st-century vocational flare."
Features will include a CAD lab and large work areas for instruction in modern welding and automotive repair techniques. A robotics lab is also planned along with a curriculum that will include computer skills and exposure to emerging manufacturing technologies like 3-D printing.
We believe this investment will prove a tremendous asset for the city schools and our community. It will allow students who are unsure about whether to pursue college or a trade to gain exposure to the latter. It will also help produce a supply of much- needed skilled labor for local contractors and the marine industry, people trained in a state-of-the-art facility. Officials say the hub also is designed to be responsive to changing needs in the workforce, as it must be to remain current in today's ever- evolving workplace.
We like this initiative and applaud the foresight of Paducah Public Schools in developing it. We believe this endeavor is a tremendous contribution to a better future for our community and generations of Paducah Tilghman High School students. We look forward to the day in 2020 when it is a reality.