Apprenticeship

The St. Joseph School District and St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce are working to inform students of viable career paths.

For some of us, Monday morning starts with a sense of dread. Or, maybe you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, in which case things don’t start going off the rails until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Either way, be honest. This thought creeps into your head now and then: “I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I could go back and choose a career path that’s more meaningful, challenging or secure.”

At the very least, don’t we all hope that the next generation doesn’t make the same mistakes?

Last week, the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce helped launch a new initiative, called Edge Factor, that aims to get students interested in careers that offer strong prospects for future employment, including health care, agri-business and high-tech manufacturing.

Founded by a former CNC programmer, Edge Factor does more than tell students, parents and teachers which jobs are “in demand.” A website provides career-oriented videos, online testimonials and other information on viable job fields. The program seeks to make science, technology, engineering and math relevant to the real world.

This could be seen as part of the chamber’s expanding role into job training and workforce development. The economic-development organization expects to reach more than 5,000 local students in the next few weeks with the Edge Factor launch, as well as tours of production facilities during Manufacturing Day and a chance to meet with business representatives in the annual My Success event.

The chamber’s evolution derives from an understanding that education and job skills are just as important as tax breaks in driving economic growth. Headed by Edge Factor, this new focus promises to strengthen employers and the overall economy of St. Joseph.

But it’s today’s student and tomorrow’s workers who derive the real benefit, and not just in terms of stable employment and financial security.

It’s always been unrealistic to suggest that everyone should be able to map out a plan for life at the age of 17. Priorities and interests change, while the need to continue growing and learning remains constant.

But some plan is better than no plan, because it can help avoid regret down the road. David Graeber, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, remarks in a recent book that too many jobs are “so completely pointless, unnecessary or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence even though, as part of the conditions of employment, the employee feels obliged to pretend that this is not the case.”

If programs like Edge Factor can help youth find meaningful employment and a sense of value through work, then that’s a reason to want to get out of bed on Monday mornings. At least on most weeks.