Watching the polarization on Biden’s decision on student debt, I see part of the discussion missing. It’s a tale of two kids. In our large, blended family we encouraged our children to find career pathways to independence. One chose college, one chose a career straight out of high school.
For many, obtaining a college degree is a pathway to living wage jobs. These workers will serve us well as teachers, healthcare providers, scientists, etc. Loans and grants help young people obtain a college degree enabling them to serve our communities. Additionally, support for programs such as Running Start which allows high school students to enroll in college classes helps our kids get a “running start” on college without debt, graduating with college credits. I’m proud that Washington State expanded Running Start to include summer classes.
Our society is desperate for highly qualified workers. As a member of the Board for Skagit Workforce Development Council, apprenticeships are one tool we use to help youth define a career path early and learn skills while still completing their high school degree. Many labor unions in Washington State encourage apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship programs are also significant in helping our women, veterans, and workers whose careers were disrupted learn new skills and enter the workforce with a strong living wage. Over 90% of apprentices are employed after their program with an annual starting salary of $60K per year. In Island County, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is one esteemed employer who uses apprenticeship programs to build not only boats but a sustainable workforce. They currently employee three generations of skilled workers from one local family.
Our county, state and nation need skilled and educated workers. I say let’s support all pathways to employment, especially for our young people. These investments benefit lives and benefit our communities.
Janet St. Clair
Island County commissioner