...show for our fledgling efforts.
What’s that? Your child isn’t enrolled in shop class? Your school district doesn’t offer metal working? Or home economics – known today as the “American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences”?
You’re not alone. Skills training courses for kids have slowed down to almost nothing in the last two decades, supplemented with digital coursework and a push for higher education after High School instead of vocational schooling. But is this digital push something that is headed in the right direction? After speaking with Joe over at Survival Stove Works (www.SurvivalStoveWorks.com), I'm inclined to buck the trend and revert to a time when shop class was shown to be a source of success. For the young man or woman about to enter a workforce, or a career, the last one or two years of high school were the last chance they had to get vocational skills. Anymore, these skills are reserved for the last year (or semester) of most college level courses.
I can say from personal experience, however, that I've earned more annual income from a 40-hour vocational training course than I have from a four-year degree. Granted, some skills cross over, but the point is this: we have more opportunities in the abandoned shop classes than we realize that have a potential to recapture a well-paid working class. Joe is living proof of this, being a tradesman for more than 30 years as a millwright and welder. What's more, he designed, built and brought to market a unique stove that is something that wouldn't exist if he hadn't had the chance to take an interest in metal working in the first place.
As Joe and I talked about this survival stove we divulged two things: 1) There is an opportunity whenever skill sets meet a need, and 2) Cultivating skill sets early on will create a better future for the next generation.
This stove is a feat of basic engineering and known principles that weighs less than 6 pounds and uses fuel that is readily available anywhere. His alternative version weighs less than 2.2 pounds. In order to make these survival tools, Joe had to create his own specialized jigs, forms, molds and processes from scratch because nothing like it was available on the market. This stove is one of the most interesting I've seen and in testing I found it to be as efficient if not better than any propane or mixed fuel model on the market.
But where would this amazing survival tool be without the skill set to bring it to life? A scrap pile somewhere? On a bench waiting to be molded into another set of bench legs or washer? The point is that when we as a nation back off on the importance of early skill building we hinder our own futures and the futures of our kids. Innovation and entrepreneurial spirit will be squandered on devices that do nothing to improve our lives. It is up to us to forge a new class of young men and women who understand the benefit of skill sets - not just welding, but all critical skill sets. So that when they grow and learn they can look back at us and realize that in giving them an opportunity to do more, we've changed the direction of their path for the better. They will contribute at a level not seen for decades and breathe life back into the innovative heart of this nation.