Over the weekend, as part of our pandemic-winter challenge of weekend day trips, we walked around Princeton University. While it’s only an hour drive from our house, with its gothic arches and its smug and sheltered students, Princeton is a continent away from our reality.
I tied up an article on boys and mental health for Edutopia (coming soon) on Friday, and started a hiatus on freelance writing. I’m going to be very busy figuring out a plan for my youngest son, who will finish high school in three months. As I explained in my newsletter a couple of weeks ago, I am not entirely sure of what we should do for a kid with autism (a light form) and no intellectual disabilities. Since a four-year college isn’t an option, at least right now, I have to trek through a variety of options in the next month.
In addition to visiting programs, I’ll dive into the research, which I’ll share as I go along. Right now, I don’t have any answers or big points that I want to make; I’m a tabula rasa on this topic at this moment. Hopefully, I’ll have answers for my kid — and come to some broad conclusions for all kids — when I’m done with this process.
Yesterday, I observed one school’s 18-21 program, via Zoom. 18-21 programs are supposed to be for kids with higher level disabilities, who didn’t take regular math or English classes or meet the standard graduation requirements. But parents must know about the secret diploma loophole, in order to get their kids into those programs. If the kid walks during graduation and the school hands him a diploma, then it’s game over. The kid is booted out of the system. Those kids are on their own for three years, until the age of 21, when the state has to step in to help. There are plenty of very disabled kids who are pushed out the school door and then have nothing waiting for them.
Kids, like mine, who have completed their high school requirements and don’t have an intellectual disability are in a grey area. They aren’t ready for work or college. They do have a disability. They don’t technically qualify for those 18-21 programs. But many parents, who don’t see a plan materializing for their kid, demand that the schools hold onto the kids for another two years. While the school district doesn’t technically have to keep educating them, most do it anyway. School administrators can challenge a parent who wants to stop the graduation process, but it takes two years to go through the legal system, so district leaders usually just roll their eyes, sigh, and warehouse the kid for two years.
As I said, I’m still doing my research, so I have lots of questions. How well do any of these programs — both in and outside of public schools — help disabled students, lightly disabled students, and students who have been made disabled by their crappy schools? (More on the overlap between disabled kids and kids who have been deprived of a proper education soon.) Do they enable these young adults find jobs, housing, independence, and all of the good stuff that we associate with adulthood?
Part of the problem is that there are few low skill jobs available, beyond pushing shopping carts. There are no factories with assembly lines, where these folks can turn a screw on a widget or weld a widget on another widget all day. The cost of living is too high to live on minimum wage of the crappy low skill jobs that are available. Schools have no clue how to deal with these kids, who aren’t going to college, so instead just waste their time for two years teaching them “work theory,” like writing a resume or talking with a boss about being late for work. It’s absurd.
We have separated education policy from work/employment/wage policy. And, we shouldn’t. The two are interlocked.
(More info as a I go along.)
33 thoughts on “Education Must Lead to Jobs: Research On Non-College Options (Part 1)”
Laura wrote, “parents must know about the secret diploma loophole, in order to get their kids into those programs. If the kid walks during graduation and the school hands him a diploma, then it’s game over.”
“There are no factories with assembly lines, where these folks can turn a screw on a widget or weld a widget on another widget all day.”
Are there really no factories in NJ? Or is the problem that the work has been automated?
As Dave often points out, there’s a surge in automation right now, even in retail settings.
“We have separated education policy from work/employment/wage policy. And, we shouldn’t. The two are interlocked.”
I have lately been thinking that we tend to think of certain things as “education” problems when they are actually “job market” problems.
Speaking of which, a guy came late Sunday night to fix our garage door (a member of our household ran into it half-open and broke the closing mechanism). A propos of nothing, he talked to my husband (a propos of nothing) about the Alamo. I think that might have been a member of the autistic tribe…He fixed it up quick and my husband wrote him a check for $125, which was very reasonable.
Seems like a lot of different issues to untangle here. As far as high schools not knowing what to do with kids who don’t go to college, our local rural high school only has 21% of kids who go on to some type of college. Kids not going to college is the norm. Do schools with large numbers of non-college kids do better at getting kids vocational training? We certainly have some occupational development programs in the county that serve a lot of these types of students. Doesn’t address what you’re talking about though with kids who might not be able to function in a workplace environment.
“Do schools with large numbers of non-college kids do better at getting kids vocational training?” Yeah, great question. I have no idea, but I’m curious. I’ll ask around.
Have you looked into the Microsoft Autism Hiring Program? They have offices in New Jersey
I’ve heard about this program and some others. Those programs are too small to matter. Too bad. Wish other companies would do the same.
Clicked through on their current hiring link at the neurodiverse site at MS:
And, the qualifications made me wonder who takes advantage of these options, requiring a degree in CS, 1-2 years experience in a variety of programming languages/environments. I do know a MS engineer who identifies as having adult-diagnosed autism, but he wasn’t hired through a neurodiverse program. I wonder if he receives accommodations?
Some years ago I read a book about autistic students. The authors pointed out that there was at that time a program that matched up autistic students with engineers in tech companies. The author claimed it was a great match.
I think many people who hold engineering degrees may themselves be on the spectrum.
People working in science and engineering jobs are more likely to have autistic-like traits than less technical professions according to a nationwide experiment involving nearly half a million members of the public – which also confirmed that men tend to be more autistic than women.
Many community colleges offer workforce development programs, usually free, usually offered via a state or the federal Department of Labor. Look on your local CC’s website for something called Longbow or Work Keys or Workforce Development–different CCs use different names–we have programs in patient care technician jobs for hospitals (full time with benefits), pre-employment training with utilities, and a large one with Boeing, a major St Louis employer, among other programs. We also have certificate programs in IT–stackable credentials, as we call them, that lead to IT work, something at which many folks with autism are successful. I would also look at the state department of labor to see what they offer. There’s more out there than you think.
Yeah, I’ve heard about those stackable degrees but only through research for newspaper articles. I haven’t gotten any info from our high school about all the possibilities at the local college. I’m about to call the local community college to see if they do presentations to parents about all the options.
We received messaging in our school district about an internship program: for a TMobile program that offers “high school students a paid internship and fast-track training Full Stack Web Developer program for current high school juniors ”
The program is directed at HS juniors in our public school system and I have no idea what it is going to be (and, don’t know what full stack web developers do). But they tell me that there will be 1.4 million unfilled jobs in our region.
I am eager to learn about it, even if it isn’t right for my kid, because that is the model I would like to see for internship/job training programs — programs where the company pays.
We’re going to zoom to the info session on Thursday.
I’ve never liked the word “low skill” because I think lots of different jobs require different kinds of skills. I for example, am a truly terrible waiter (something I know because back in the day, my college house ran a “French cafe” for a house event and I was pressured into serving for about 15 minutes as a waiter before everyone realized that I was truly incapable: I wouldn’t notice when people needed me; I would loose focus after 30 seconds; I would literally stop traffic in a crowded room because no one could tell where I was going to move next ). I have enough belief in my ability to learn that I am not going to say I could *never* be a waiter, but it would be a hard skill for me to acquire that would require a lot of learning on my part.
When people have significantly atypical skills finding that fit is more difficult (especially if there are skills they won’t be able to learn). I am inclined to believe that part of the solution has to involve forms of universal basic income that then allow people to contribute in a way that matches their skills (which might not be enough to earn a living wage). For example, there’s a teen I follow in photography, with autism, who makes excellent, professional quality photographs of model cars in interesting environments, using light, weather, landscape to create work that draws ones eye. He is very good, and not “good for an autistic teen”. But, that work will not generate a livable income without significant business/marketing/social skills (and, even then, generating real income would be difficult).
One of the stumbling blocks for schools is that the college prep is very much the same: take these course, take these tests, have extracurricular activities. Push everyone to prepare for highly ranked schools and if they miss, there’s always directional state. But non-college track is much more varied.
Cosmetology is not like mechanics, is not like stacking credentials at a boot camp, is not like getting a pilot license. Then there are apprenticeships. No single school is ever going to cover it all, they can’t.
I think that high schools should teach all kids the same basic math-english-science-social studies curriculum (with some variation about toughness levels), but just provide better counseling about the post-high school programs that offer pilot licenses and whatever. I have no clue what to do. I’m about to call the local community college to see if they give presentations for parents and potential students about all of their offerings.
I wasn’t clear. No high school counselor will be able to provide all the info. There’s too much, with too much variation even in a single area like mechanics. You told a story of a kid that wanted a very specific kind of mechanics program. A counselor will not know that, plus the variants in cosmetology, plus be expected to know about Embry-Riddle, etc. They might be able to point toward local votech schools, but they won’t be able to help with specific programs. The most you can get is here’s a brochure for the local votech.
I don’t know. I don’t feel strongly about this, but if a guidance counselor is expected to know about French majors at University of Indiana and engineering programs at Virginia Tech v. Rutgers, one staff member should be responsible for knowing what the best cosmetology program is in the area.
Laura wrote, “I don’t know. I don’t feel strongly about this, but if a guidance counselor is expected to know about French majors at University of Indiana and engineering programs at Virginia Tech v. Rutgers, one staff member should be responsible for knowing what the best cosmetology program is in the area.”
Do they, though?
Tulip said, “Cosmetology is not like mechanics, is not like stacking credentials at a boot camp, is not like getting a pilot license. Then there are apprenticeships. No single school is ever going to cover it all, they can’t.”
That’s exactly right.
Also, if it’s offered in high school, you have the problem of having to make pretty big choices at 14 or 16 or whatever.
As I’ve said before, in our area I know someone who works as a paid consultant providing advice to families about customizing high school for their quirky kids (mixing online/home school/public school resources, as well as consulting about private school option). I think what you are describing, finding a fit for an individual child requires that kind of customized approach. Our public high schools don’t provide that for individual children going to college (certainly not at the level of French at a particular school, unless, by happenstance the counselor happened to have studied french at a particular school).
Jenn mentioned public resources that might try to provide such help, but I also think that private consulting might be a valuable resource, too. Does it exist? I don’t know. But it should.
bj wrote, “I think what you are describing, finding a fit for an individual child requires that kind of customized approach. Our public high schools don’t provide that for individual children going to college (certainly not at the level of French at a particular school, unless, by happenstance the counselor happened to have studied french at a particular school).”
As far as I can tell, here’s what our private school counselor does for college:
–Sends out emails with information about various colleges.
–Hounds underclassmen to do activities, especially off-campus activities
–Sets up visits for college representatives.
–Hounds kids to take standardized tests and meet deadlines.
–Hounds the kids some more.
–Supplies transcripts, etc.
–Puts up display showing acceptances, rings bell every time kid gets accepted somewhere.
We got a certain amount of grief from her for having our oldest apply just to Hometown U.–a bit risky, but it paid off. I asked her about subject area specific scholarships, but we’d already figured out almost everything by ourselves.
I have very limited expectations of school guidance counselors–I’m happy if they just get transcripts sent in on time.
I hired a lawyer. He suggested a private boarding school. We’re going to check it out.
I heard a story through the family grapevine that a homeschooled son of family friends is doing very well in IT. I don’t know what the exact sequence of events was (or whether he did some kind of formal training program), but he just got a $75k a year job at SpaceX without a college degree.
Here’s an idea:
Maybe encourage local employers who are looking for trainees to do a high school job fair?
They could come and explain what they are looking for and what their work involves.
I think here, for more neurotypical kids, they tend to get some kind of job and then kind of float around for a bit until they find either a person or a field that sparks their interest, and then go back to community college. (Community college here is for diplomas; Universities are for degrees, as a broad generalization.) I know that because a lot of them work for me teaching or in administration during that process. Our jobs start at minimum, which here is $14.25/hr, but go up once they’re more trained. And of course we keep some of them. 🙂 I have a central member of the team who is on the spectrum (and have hired others more casually like in summer camps) but that person prefers not to work full time because it’s overwhelming so I think there are other means of financial support.
Some of the fields people have fallen into have included nursing, pharmacy technician, mechanics of various kinds, barbering, childcare, culinary school, driving, and massage and physical therapy – due to our business it leans towards the health-related fields.
IT is a good area – I don’t like the race-to-the-bottom sites like UpWork but I do know people who have used those to build a portfolio without entering a classroom.
Here there are also employment programs/counselling for youth that supposedly have all the goods on pathways to employment, but some of them are just resume dusters and some are great and it can be hard to tell from the outside. Some are community centre or NGO run (organizations like the Y and United Way funded agencies) and some are through our Federally-run Employment Centres. I used to work for a group of linked programs where each one had a speciality and would refer to the others (like new immigrants, older workers, workers with learning disabilities, youth that couldn’t get out of bed in the morning (seriously, they had a team that just did calls at 6:30 am), etc.) I wonder if there’s anything like that in your area?
Is there a book on this topic, accessible to parents of non-college-bound kids, and high school students/college dropouts trying to figure out what to do next? If not, that’s a huge market. The numbers seem to indicate less than half of students in an age cohort complete a college degree.
Right? It’s a big market that isn’t being served. There are shelves and shelves for college bound kids and families at Barnes and Noble, but nothing about options for the other half.
Writing a book for a population that is self-selected to include only people trying to avoid going to a place to read books seems like a poor business decision.
Those college books aren’t aimed at college bound high school students, because those kids don’t like to read either. Those books are for the parents. Presumably, there are parents of non-college bound students, who would like more info, too.
Laura said, “Those college books aren’t aimed at college bound high school students, because those kids don’t like to read either. Those books are for the parents. Presumably, there are parents of non-college bound students, who would like more info, too.”
Probably true. I was reading my own books for that, but nobody else was.
I hope you’re writing this book. It sounds really important and I can see a lot of either non-profit or even enlightened for-profit potential (not saying you have to do this) in linking the book to state-by-state resources and schools and providing counselling and other supports.
I shared this with Laura on twitter but here’s an example of supports – https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/persons-with-exceptionalities-conference-tickets-137833996193?aff=erelexpmlt
“Are you in Grades 7-10, living with an exceptionality and interested in what careers you could have in the future?
Are you a parent, guardian, support staff or teacher interested in learning more about skilled trades and technologies?”
“Skills Ontario’s mission statement is “to champion and stimulate the development of world-class technological and employability skills in Ontario youth.”
I have no idea how this pans out or what the quality is but I hope the US has equal or greater supports around once you know how to find them.
Because sometimes we (i.e. the US) do have attempts, anyway, of providing resources, I’m passing along this collection at the University of Washington: a collection of resources and programs that is part of their “DO-IT” program (“DO-IT: Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology”)
This is for students who might be going to college and have interest in STEM fields.
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