Shop classes have disappeared in many American schools and that’s bad news for the entire country—not just the world of historic boats and vehicles. A new presentation series sponsored by the Collectors Foundation highlights the importance of manual skills and trades in modern education and why more young people should be given the opportunity to work with their hands.
Even as the national unemployment rate hovers around 9-percent, jobs in manufacturing that pay in upwards of $80,000 a year are going unfilled. Among the reasons for the shortfall of workers, according to a Wall Street Journal report last year: the growing retirement rate of baby-boomers with sophisticated machine skills at a time when parents and guidance counselors discourage kids from pursuing careers in manufacturing.
While increasingly focusing on high-tech-related skills, modern educators continue to fall short when it comes to giving students the hands-on knowledge necessary to turn pixels on a computer screen into something real.
The Collector’s Foundation believes this is where bringing back shop class in American schools can help.
This month in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Collectors Foundation hosted the first in a focused series of themed presentations called Bring Back Shop Class. The purpose of the new series is to provoke thought and action about the direction education is taking in America while highlighting the economic, social, historic, and cultural importance of hands-on learning.
American society has so devalued shop class and people who learn and work with their hands that we live in endangered communities where critical technical skills—important to keeping our manufacturing sector and other important jobs—go wanting for lack of trained and knowledgeable workers.
With his lecture topic, “Education, Careers, and Kids Who Love Cars,” Michael Schneider, President of McPherson College, was the Collectors Foundation’s first presenter in this series. McPherson College, located in McPherson, Kansas, is a liberal arts college offering a four-year degree in automotive restoration technology that combines a career focused liberal arts program with an emphasis on hands-on, career-minded entrepreneurship. With this unique program, the school is challenging traditional education and Mr. Schneider’s presentation was at once inspiring and provocative.
In his presentation, Schneider challenged the audience of some 60 collector car enthusiasts to consider how education in America has changed—specifically, how modern academics is no longer about experience but instead information. According to Schneider, education must change from a mere exchange of information (now more easily and quickly accessed on Google) to helping students establish how that information connects with real experience. In the case of students majoring in McPherson College’s Automotive Restoration program, it’s about hands-on learning experiences restoring older vehicles.
In addition to hands-on learning opportunities, McPherson is encouraging all its students to experience risk-taking entrepreneurship—an avenue necessary to creating more American businesses that in turn create jobs for themselves and others. McPherson’s Auto Restoration Program, according to Schneider, is leading the way for the entire institution to change its traditional ways of thinking about education, and the Collectors Foundation was proud to present this first in its “Bring Back Shop Class” series of presentations.
To keep up-to-date on future presentations in this exciting and thought-provoking series, check out www.collectorsfoundation.org.