PHOTO Durbin and Cullerton raise awareness for career tech programs RSCAROL STREAM- To raise awareness for vocational and technology careers, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and State Senator Tom Cullerton (D-Villa Park) toured Automobile Mechanics' Local 701 in Carol Stream.

Vocation education is a training program to prepare students for a certain trade, such as auto repair, construction, beautician programs, agriculture, health and engineering.

However at some point over the last 20 years, vocational education became downgraded to a career path for troubled or academically challenged students. These programs become a destination for students who weren’t “college material.” This was a tragic mistake in preparing our middle class for real careers.

“Students should have the opportunity to be educated and trained for careers they enjoy,” Cullerton said. “Vocational programs provide Illinois’ adults and students with vital technical skills to compete in our global economy.”

The societal biases against vocational programs lead to a decline in enrollment and several workforce shortages.

“When I travel around Illinois I often hear how many good jobs go unfilled because employers cannot find workers with the right technical expertise,” said Durbin. “Vocational education programs are uniquely positioned to give students the skills they need to succeed in promising fields like manufacturing, healthcare, automotive repair and more. I will continue to support training initiatives, like Local 701’s apprenticeship program, that help working families gain the skills needed to succeed in our evolving economy.”

Many skills for innovative jobs are technical skills that fall into the category of technical and vocational studies. There are programs training students in biomedicine, energy pathways engineering and advanced manufacturing.

“The days when vocational training was considered less than a college degree are over. Vocational skills help forgotten middle class families who still believe that labor is a necessary and driving force behind our economy,” Cullerton said. “Vocational education leads directly to employment and doesn't saddle students with mountains of debt. These careers lead to healthy incomes, career success and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”