In today’s society, post-secondary education is a topic that is getting an increased amount of attention. The American President, national, state, and local politicians, and educators across the country continue to work towards identifying new ways to increase the attainment rate for postsecondary education. Career and technical education (CTE) is an important and increasingly popular component of post-secondary education. The role of CTE has continued to develop and evolve over the past several decades. Some people, however, correlate CTE to blue-collar manual labor jobs, and that stigma sometimes detracts from the appeal of CTE for many potential students.
CTE can have a significant impact on the attainment levels of post-secondary education, and it can occur rather inexpensively and efficiently. What is important is that the CTE offerings must continue to expand and evolve as the marketplace changes. One of the largest opportunities for an increase in formal post-secondary education involves current and future employees of the service industry, specifically food service and sales.
There are vast amounts of employees in these sectors, making them prime candidates for further education. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2014), 12.9 million workers in the United States were employed as front-line waiters / waitresses, sales representatives, or first-line supervisors of those two segments of the working population. That is almost 10% of the working population of this country. However, very few members of these occupational segments have received any formal training or education relating to their occupation from an educational institution.
What would be the benefit of launching and promoting an organization similar to the technical institutes that provide CTE to individuals seeking occupations in the technology or mechanical industries that many people see advertised on television? Who would benefit from a Service Industry Institute (SII), similar to ITT or MMI but focusing on the service industry rather than technology or motorcycles?
The first people to benefit would be the employees themselves. There is a strong correlation between higher earnings potential after completion of a CTE program versus simply having a high school diploma or GED. It has also been widely observed that individuals who complete a CTE program are much more likely to pursue and complete additional post-secondary education. Lastly, people who complete a CTE program and enter the workforce for 4 years prior to pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree incur much lower education debt and a much higher rate of completion than students who pursue a degree directly out of high school. Bottom line… the employee benefits significantly in several very important ways.
Another group that would benefit from service industry-focused CTE would be companies and organizations that provide those services to consumers. Having a highly trained and knowledgeable workforce enables companies to meet their customer’s needs more effectively and efficiently, leading to higher profits, more satisfied customers, and increased repeat business and net promoter scores. Companies would also be able to streamline their hiring practices by focusing on attracting potential employees who have formal training in the service industry. Lastly, companies would be able to reduce their own training expenses either by hiring candidates who have already completed post-secondary training and certification in their sector or by making the successful completion of such certification a requirement for their continued employment.
The last group that would benefit from a better-educated service industry workforce would be the customers who use the service of those employees, and the economy as a whole. Anyone who has gone to a restaurant and been served by a waiter or waitress has experienced the impact of that server’s skills (or lack thereof) first-hand. Anyone who has shopped at a retail store and interacted with a sales person has experienced first-hand how that sales person’s skills affected the transaction. Bottom line… the better the experience by the individuals providing service to you, the higher level of enjoyment you experience in that interaction, and nothing sets the stage for a good experience more than effective training. Finally, when a customer experiences exceptional service, they spend more money. That helps stimulate the economy, and that is good for everyone.