Success isn't defined by how long you went to school

My youngest son is a junior in highschool and is in the midst of that difficult decision about what happens after he graduates next year.  He has many great options before him, but there is clearly an assumption amongst most of those at his school and many of the people we know: If he wants to be successful, he needs to choose the path of a four-year college degree.

That assumption - so common in Minnesota today - is simply wrong

For too long, success for our kids has been defined only as attending a four year university after high school. While going to a four-year college is certainly a great plan for some kids, it’s not what’s best for others. Either way, this path should not be the only definition of success and there should never be a stigma surrounding those choosing vocational or technical training, apprenticeship programs or military service.

In fact, we should be celebrating and congratulating those kids who are not bowing to societal pressure and are making a decision that is best for them and is serving a great need in our state.

We have a tremendous need for skilled workers in Minnesota - a helpful reality when the purpose is to earn a living. Usually these degrees are earned in two years as opposed to four or six, so earning an income starts sooner, graduates avoid the crushing student loan debt that currently haunts millions, the starting salaries for skilled trades are often much higher than for four-year college graduates and finding a job is almost immediate.

So what can we do about it?

As a small-government conservative, I don’t believe the answer is a new spending program, although there is much state government can do to connect our colleges, vocational schools and high schools with the business community to make certain our kids are learning the skills that will lead to successful careers. And I believe we should direct more student aid dollars to kids to use in the marketplace of higher education rather than to institutions to dole out as they see fit.

More importantly, however, a Governor should use the bully pulpit to change this misguided attitude in Minnesota that a four-year degree is the best path to success for all of our kids.  I will partner with vocational and technical schools across the state, hold events on their campuses and highlight the many amazing success stories of individual students.

At the core of this issue is an economic reality: As Americans and Minnesotans, we do need to make things again and we need leaders who are focused on making that happen. Having a governor committed to removing this inaccurate assumption about our kids and highlighting the many great options available to high school graduates will help our young people, help our communities and ensure that Minnesotans will have the skills to succeed and strengthen our state.

The heartbeat of our economy must continue to be skilled trades, manufacturing, mining and farming. And, contrary to what others may think, that heartbeat is a human one - not a machine or a robot. As governor, I will ensure our kids and our communities know that success is defined by hard work and the pride that comes with it - regardless of what kind of work you do or where you went to school.

Showing 9 reactions

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  • Ally Simps
    Graduating with this much debt is so sad. My parents can not stop talking about this issue, they continuously say students are not supported at all. Schools are just businesses. I have recently noticed a photography company where the owners are doing what they love and making so much money. If everyone did exactly what they’re passionate about, this wouldn’t be such an issue, except I feel that people are only going to school in fear of debt, which in reality causes them more debt. So sad. Thank you for sharing though :)
    lots of love,

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  • Radja Lohse
    I agree with you on this issue. I have a Journeyman Degree as a Tool and Die Maker. Though I’m retired now, this degree offered me a prosperous and enjoyable career. There is a huge shortage in this field alone.
  • Margie Hoffman
    I totally agree with this. There are so many young people who are graduating with tremendous debt. And a worthless degree. While people who have great skills, and are so necessary for keeping the wheels from falling off our manufacturing base, are looked down on because they don’t have a 4 year degree. They so often have more knowledge than the degreed people!
  • Tom Cushing
    Well I am a member of Laborers Local 563 And I dropped out of High School, got my GED I took all the trade classes in Junior High and Building construction and Woodworking classes, metals class. And did well in Math. I see a few people with trade degrees but I do not feel it is necessary. The 2 years spent at a trade school could be used at being in an apprentice program which most Union Trades have. Hands on experience with pay in a 2 year apprentice program would be my advice to your son. And no loans what so ever. And he would be a Journeyman in 2 years with full pay. Also Health benefits and a pension from day one.

    I know that you want to make MN a right to work State. But that would be infringing on NLRA act that was passed in 1935. Now I am not saying everyone should join a Union but using Federal or State money for Trade schools as a conservative, is the wrong direction, that is something a democrat would say. I think Unions working with Employers to train apprentices is a far less of strain on tax dollars. And is much better for the students and employers. I ask you and all Republicans to rethink your war on Unions because like me their are thousands of members that do not like the far left that the Democrats have gone. We are mad that a portion of are dues are used to help elect Democrats. Ending Political Paks would be a better platform to run on.

    I am giving you an olive branch to reach out to new voters who are conservatives and Union Members, but feel they have to vote Democrat to keep Act NLRA. This would be the best time in American politics to be a party for Unions. I ask you to go to the many Union Training Centers across MN and talk to Union Contractors and ask their opinions on Trade Schools or apprentice programs through the Training Centers.

    I beg you to change the mind set of Republican politicians towards Unions we are very conservative just scared that you will take away the rights we fought for.
    Feel free to contact me anytime about this very serious matter of thousands of conservatives in MN that would love to support you. Tom C
  • Allan Holtz
    I think children at all stages of high school throughout the state of Minnesota should be encouraged to seek a tour of 3M Laboratories in Maplewood, MN. This would require some coordination with 3M. But should a standardized (as an innovator, I actually hate that word) program/presentation be prepared by 3M that would highlight the varied (and NO company in the world has a broader product/research base than 3M) research, development and manufacture of new products that everyone uses on a daily basis from 3M, I think more students would be interested in pursuing STEM fields. I do think the future means more robotic manufacturing, but someone needs to design and develop the robotic processes and products those robots (and humans) create. That requires first of all an interest in STEM, then the training necessary to participate after high school graduation. It would NOT cost a lot to have annual tours of 3M once a program were developed and the benefits would be far reaching. We do not need more liberal arts graduates, we need more math, science and engineering graduates! Currently, foreign students occupy most of those college classrooms, not US citizen students. That needs to change. That starts with a passion for STEM and letting students see just how products are created by men and women at 3M would be a great start.

    I grew up on a small Iowa farm. I learned about hard work, working alongside my father on the farm doing chores before and after school every day from the age of 6 until graduating from high school. He also was a partner in an electric motor repair shop. I helped some there as well, learning about electricity and motors. Then in college I majored in ceramic engineering and worked 30 years in R&D at 3M followed by 7 years of same at Seagate. I am now retired and am saddened to see such a low interest in STEM by current American youth.

    Children need the opportunity to explore and try things on their own. Some would call that play. I was an only child, so when not working I was “playing”. But such play involved exploring nature and toys that involved chemistry, electricity and microscopes. Even hunting rabbits and squirrels and fishing was learning, as anything I shot or caught, I also dressed, seeing firsthand the insides of these animals, hence learning what made them live. “Why” was my most often used question as a small child, and it still is as a 68 year old adult. I always refused to let “can’t” over rule “can”. Our children need to learn as young as possible that failure is but the path to success. We need less memorization and drill in the classroom and more creative exploration of nature. We need class agenda design that seeks to stimulate and encourage each student to question and seek answers to their own questions and to learn to accept failure but remain hopeful that they will ultimately succeed.

    If you wish to pursue some of these ideas further, my wife wrote (currently unpublished) a book on this subject, tentatively titled “Over Standardization in Education, Business and Government”. She and I would love to discuss this further with you, especially if your bid for Minnesota Governor is successful.
  • John Meyer
    I totally agree. There are many specialized, skilled career trades where the individual would be MUCH further ahead, perhaps most importantly financially (no school debt) but qualifications wise as well, going straight into them and working their way up through their “schooling” while earning a paycheck as they do it, as an apprentice (even if it’s not called that). Most skilled trades will look first at ones on the job experience, and on the job credentials and references, BEFORE they put much stock in the “degree” one attained or what school it may have come from.
  • Don Bohn
    Jeff is right on! In fact some college degrees qualify a a gradate for a job at Burger King!
    Keep up the practical thinking! We are all behind you!
    Don Bohn, P.E.
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