I want to share my experience with you – to reconfirm the good work that vocational training provides. I am a proud graduate of the electrician program that was offered at the old Pleasants-Ritchie -Tyler (PRT) Vocational program - the original cornerstone of MOVTI. Without the opportunities my vocational training provided I would not have had the life experiences that have taken me around the world.
I grew up in Harrisville - born into a family that financially struggled to just put food on the table. I knew that if I was going to fulfill my dreams of going to college and seeing the world, I was going to have to do it all on my own. The field trip to the PRT Vocational Technical Center I took with my classmates my sophomore year at the old Harrisville High School absolutely changed my life. I could be trained as an electrician (getting my State of West Virginia Electricians License) get a skilled higher paying job and pay for college! That is what I did. The day I turned 18 I started working at the Willow Island Power Plant and soon thereafter started taking classes at the old Parkersburg Community College (now WVU Parkersburg). A year later I transferred to WVU and worked weekends as an electrician in Morgantown and summers as an electrician at Willow Island to put myself through school.
After graduating from WVU I have literally been able to see the world in various management roles with US, French, Swiss, Portuguese, and Japanese owned multinational corporations. I was selected over other candidates for my very first engineering job literally because I had the practicality of an electrician’s license – since the job was located offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, and I could do field repairs if needed. I was able to complete an MBA at Auburn University and attend management training at Harvard. The little kid that grew up in a trailer in Harrisville, WV has helped negotiate billions of dollars in high tech contracts in multiple continents – and I owe a debt of gratitude to my vocational training.
I write you this to stress a fact that you already know: A vocational education can be a pathway to a specific skilled career, or it can be a first step in the evolution of a multidisciplinary career. Too often high school guidance counselors view vocational training and college as two separate paths. I think it is time for these counselors to consider the third path (and the path I chose) – a vocational education that leads to a college. Who would make a better engineer – someone who jumps right into college with no real experience or someone who has actually worked with materials through vocational training?