LIHUE — Education is important, but doesn’t necessrily determine your ability to advance in the workplace, said Steve Yoder, Kauai County Republican chair.
“Formal education shouldn’t be something that has to be a requirement. If you know what you want to do, you pursue it and work,” Yoder said. “It makes a lot more sense to get paid to learn it than to pay to learn it. And you already have yourself a job. What makes someone valuable in the open market is not the ability to hold down a job, it’s their skills.”
Pew Research Center released a study last month that said 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents say colleges and universities have a “negative effect on the way things are going in the country,” while 36 percent say their effect is positive.
Last week, an updated version of the study revealed that while Republicans say that attending college has a negative effect, it also has its benefits in workforce preparation.
“I don’t know what the actual numbers are, but I think that we push college education too much. And as a result, the people involved have steered clear of vocational education. And that’s not a good thing,” said Bob Hickling, former Kauai Republican chair. “We’re trying to return to being a manufacturing country once again so we don’t send everything off shore and we have to have hands who know how to do that.”
Yoder and Hickling worry that vocational schools are being ignored, so young adults don’t consider learning a trade over academics.
“Different strokes for different folks,” Hickling said. “Some people do better in one part of the world than the other. I went to college, I think it’s a good thing, but it’s not for everybody. And the trouble is that we’re losing the facilities that we need for the people who don’t need or want to go to college.”
Two years ago, 54 percent of Republicans and those leaning towards the Republican Party said colleges and universities had a positive effect on the country, while just 37 percent viewed college as negative.
Eleele Republican Bill Georgi has a master’s degree in business administration. But that doesn’t mean that he would recommend everybody goes to college.
“My youngest daughter, who is a journeyman union electrician who went through an apprenticeship program, probably makes the same kind of money that I made,” Georgi said. “With my 22 grandkids, I’ll be talking to them about college. If it works for you, go to college. If not, become a truck driver or an electrician or a plumber or something. Get a technical education if you don’t get the academics.”
While Georgi agrees with Hickling that the importance of learning a trade is important, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in manufacturing like it was in the old days.
“A lot of (manufacturing) is going away due to robotics, in terms of employing people,” he said. “But learning how to build robots and repair them, that sort of thing is going to be very critical. Auto repair is a lot more difficult that it used to be. There are skills that are definitely out there.”
Two of Yoder’s daughters graduated from college; one is a paralegal and the other a nurse. The third daughter is a Best Western manager, for which she didn’t need a degree.
“How many people do we know that go off to get a degree, and do absolutely nothing with it? ” Yoder said. “Get a job and learn it. That way you have no bill and get paid to do it. It’s a more practical thing to do.”