In a highly tech-driven world, much emphasis is put on preparing students with job skills that will enable them to be adaptable and innovative, specifically in tech, math, and science fields. And looking forward in the 21st century, these job skills will certainly be necessary, as the pace of technological advancements continues to accelerate.

And this is a good thing — but are we leaving something out? Is there too much focus on pursuing a four-year degree or tech-centered career? What about skilled trades? The truth is, skilled trades jobs are in high demand. And as the skilled trades workforce is getting older and retiring, there are jobs that need to be filled.

Often, there is stigma associated with such trades – that skilled trade workers are less respected, and perhaps make less money than someone who works in a office. And higher academically performing student may be pushed towards at least a four-year degree program, perhaps in the math, science, education, or technology field. But couldn’t STEM skills and personalized learning directly affect these trades for the better?

For example, the general idea behind personalized learning is that every student is different, they all have different learning styles and they all learn at different paces. Yes, some kids might easily take to programming, while other student may be more disposed to hands-on learning skills, like carpentry or mechanics. Sometimes, it seems like there is a division between these skill sets. But does there really need to?

Couldn’t personalized learning bridge the gap by not only identifying students’ skills, but giving them the tools to adapt those skills to the 21st century?

Many students simply aren’t introduced to skilled trades, unless they choose to take a vocational course at a local community college. With more education and exposure, however, students may learn that not only do these trades pay more than perhaps they expected, but they may be more interested in one of these careers than they initially thought.

Personalized learning can offer the flexibility within the school day to expose students to different career paths, giving them a better sense of what they really want to do when it comes to making decisions about their post-secondary education.

Some schools have had ‘career days’ where they use a portion of the school day to have a professional come in and talk to students about what they do. Students can sign up if they’re interested, and get an inside look at how different people make a living doing something they love.

As the 21st century blazes on, undoubtedly there will be an explosion of new technologies, and more and more things will likely become automated. These technologies will probably drastically change skilled trades – think of the advancements in carpentry or electrical that could be made – and younger, more tech savvy workers will be in high demand.

Not everyone will be a physicist or programmer, and that’s ok. And not everyone is cut out to be chef or a welder; but with personalized learning, kids can have the opportunity to try out different shoes earlier in life, to see which one fits. They can get a better feel for what they have an aptitude for, and they can even gain skill sets than enable them to be creative and adaptable, things that will serve them well in the future no matter what they do. Because, in the end, isn’t true success as an educator about, not telling students which way to go, but helping them reach their full potential as they choose their path?

Click the link to this article to learn about one school’s pilot program to introduce students to skilled trades: Program treads path to personalized learning

Let’s build a path to close the learning gap and enrich students’ futures.