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Most schools in California don’t offer shop class anymore, meaning most college students and graduates enter real life lacking the belief that they have the ability to build and create material items. Schools have been steering them away form working with their hands. In fact, schools in Los Angeles have already eliminated 90% of shop classes in favor of science, language and art classes.
A group of Stanford graduate students has set out to change that by visiting individual schools with a truck — the SparkTruck — full of materials for building. The idea is to inspire kids to connect their brains and their hands for their own good, be it self-confidence or exploration of a career in engineering.
Why do these Stanford prodigies believe that working with one’s hands is so important? First, skilled labor is an avenue to secure jobs that desperately need workers. Second, building and creating is one of the best ways to engage students. Shop class provides skills for life and can help students decide early on if a vocational school is a better choice than college.
Tara Tiger Brown, contributor to Forbes, notes that kids are missing out on a huge opportunity:
With all the money that is poured into high school sports teams you would think that every kid was going to turn into a professional player. Without early exposure to shop class many kids are going to lose out on the opportunity to discover whether or not they like making things, and the inclination to pursue a career as a drafter, carpenter, welder or auto mechanic. Statistically speaking there is a greater chance that a kid will become employed as a tradesperson than ever becoming a professional sports player. Skilled laborers are essential and are not limited to stereotypical jobs as plumbers (although that is critical profession). Companies such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman are struggling to find skilled laborers and that trend is going to continue.
College and shop class are no longer mutually exclusive, and it’s time that educators recognize the true value of teaching skills that enable students to work with their hands, whether to build a wooden chair or repair electricity-generating wind turbines.
It’s no surprise that the SparkTruck team is quickly gaining in popularity. Jobs of the future will depend on thinkers and creators who remember the old adage, “Measure twice, cut once.” Hopefully, colleges will be taking a new approach to this old subject as the SparkTruck team continues to wake up students all over America.
Watch the video below, and check out the SparkTruck website to learn more.