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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks at the Presentation Ceremony for the American Success Awards


It's a great pleasure to see you here, and I certainly want to welcome Senator Kassebaum. I don't know what happened to Senator Orrin Hatch, but I expect he'll make the dramatic entrance any minute now. [Laughter] But thank you so much for coming.

My thanks to Michael Farley, Chairman of the National Council on Vocational Education, for all his hard work. And there's an old saying: The more things change, the more things stay the same. Well, today I'm going to talk about our rapidly changing work force and the simple, proven ways America is preparing for the future.

You know, during the administration of Abraham Lincoln, the Government made a strong commitment to what most people now consider a current idea: vocational-technical education. And by establishing the land grant colleges -- the agricultural and mechanical, or A M schools -- Lincoln ensured that American workers were on the cutting edge of the new technologies. Well, that sounds familiar, and since the days of Lincoln, America has been concerned with competitiveness in the world marketplace of technology.

Lately, there's a bad rumor going around that the work ethic is dead. And I don't believe that's true, not when so many of the best new jobs in the Nation are going to Americans educated in vocational-technical schools. It sounds to me like the work ethic is alive and well. And it's going to stay that way. Eighteen of the twenty fastest growing occupations within the next decade require vocational-technical education, and jobs for technicians will grow 38 percent by the year 2000 -- the fastest of any major occupational group.

You know, there are dramatic changes in the Nation's work force, changes that point to a brighter future for our young people. Take, for example, the fact that our population is growing much more slowly now that the baby boom is over, the same time that we're creating a record number of new jobs. The bottom line in the year 2000 -- and this is a statistic that really is staggering -- in the year 2000, every person who wants a job will have one if they have the skills. And that's where you all come in.

All across America, some 26,000 vocational-technical education institutions provide 16 million Americans with marketable skills in over 150 occupations. These students will be the high-tech computer programmers and operators, equipment assemblers, and communications specialists who stand at the cutting edge of our economy. As we rely more and more on automation in our industries, employers will be looking for smart workers who can communicate and solve problems, from monitoring production rates to repairing robots, and people who are skilled on the production line and who know how to get things done, and craftsmen such as computer programmers and electrical engineers, and practical nurses, who keep our economy going strong.

Let's look at some of the benefits of vo-tech education: marketable graduates and lower unemployment. For example, one study found that graduates of Ohio vocational education programs earn 21 percent more money 4 years after graduation than high school graduates without this training. And unemployment is lower for vo-tech graduates than for those in the general work force who are the same age and have the same number of years of schooling. But even beyond the numbers, when vo-tech education can help young Americans get a better start in life, then the whole country benefits.

And here's another benefit: improved learning skills. Job training and academics are not contradictory; actually, many people learn academic subjects better in the context of how to use them on a job. Students in a vo-tech school taking a ``Principles of Technology'' course will learn about thermal resistance not from a lab experience with beakers and test tubes but from working the insulation in a house. Vo-tech schools are leading the way in educational improvement and applied academics.

The partnerships that community colleges and vo-tech institutes have formed with businesses to provide retraining and skills for employees are essential. There are now 23 million adults who receive retraining through vo-tech programs, which allow them to get new or better jobs. The reality of lifelong learning has arrived. We call it career ladder opportunities, the kind of education that builds bridges between vocational education and higher education. It's the kind of education that puts more and more Americans on the ladder to success.

Building a world-class work force, then, must be a national priority. Improving America's capacity to educate and train workers is critical to the future of this country. And that's why today we're presenting to you -- not all of you, some of you -- the American Success Awards. You have become American success stories through your involvement in vocational-technical education, and you're building a better America every day. Each of you has lived the American dream, and each one of you deserves our congratulations and thanks for your work in vocational - technical education. God bless you all, and thank you all for coming today.

And now, Mike, let's present these American Success Awards.

Note: The President spoke at 11:07 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. Recipients of the American Success Awards were Dorothy Holland, vice president, Kraft, Inc.; Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Engle, space shuttle commander; Norma Kamali, international fashion and home furnishings designer; Frederick Napolitano, chairman of the board, Pembroke Enterprises; Roy S. Roberts, vice president and general manager for truck operations, Navistar International Transportation Corp.; Joseph Semprevivo, vice president, L J Lite Co.; George Shinn, chairman, George Shinn   Associates and owner of the Charlotte, NC, Hornets; Delbert Staley, chairman of the board, Nynex Corp.; George Strait, the Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year in 1986; Charles Strang, chairman and chief executive officer, Outboard Marine Corp.; Brian Rowe, senior vice president, General Electric Aircraft Engines; and Ralph Hofstad, president and chief executive officer, Land-O-Lakes.

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