17 February 2000

Career Awareness In A High Tech Future

Duane M. Dunn, Ed.D., President, Manhattan Area Technical College; President, Kansas Association of Career
and Technical Education

In a recent edition of Readerís Digest, Philip J. Quigley, former CEO of Pacific Telesis, was quoted from one of
speeches. Mr. Quigley stated "If we were to go back in time 100 years and ask a farmer what heíd like if he
could have anything, heíd probably tell us he wanted a horse that was twice as strong and ate half as many oats.
He would not tell us he wanted a tractor. Technology changes things so fast that many people arenít sure what
the best solutions to their problems might be."

This is certainly an intriguing statement, and one that is applicable to so many issues with which society is faced.
We are faced with a certain amount of trepidation in just about anything related to technological advancements
today. For example, we may choose not to purchase a VCR because DVD is now available; we wait to purchase
cellular phone coverage because a new incentive plan will be available; we delay buying a new car because the
next model may have more features. These examples relate to purchasing products but the same concept may
apply to young people in making career decisions. We should ask ourselves if we accept delaying career
decisions because we arenít sure what may be available next year, in five years, or in ten years. According to the
U.S. Department of Labor, technological advancements result in job obsolescence at a more rapid rate then ever
before. In fact, it is estimated that more than 10% of the jobs available for employment in five years do not even
exist today.

However, it is critical that we not delay career planning simply because we arenít sure what jobs will be in
demand in the future. Certainly, the employment need for harness makers decreased sharply with the advent of
tractors, but that decline was replaced by an increased need for mechanics. As new technology replaces out of
date processes jobs are created to meet those new technologies. Planning for career adjustments is important for
young people, displaced employees, individuals returning to the workforce, and for "second" career employment
seekers. Support and encouragement is important in order that the individual feels confident investigating his or
her talents, interests, abilities, and goals.

Governor Graves and Mayor Reitz have recognized this week as Career and Technical Education Week. On a
national scope, educators and students participate in a variety of activities and recognition programs that
promote the importance of career and technical education. Many students in Manhattan are working with area
employers through participation in job shadowing and mentoring initiatives. An awareness of the critical need for
young people to research career interests, observe employment situations, and strengthen their goals to be
contributing citizens is a concept promoted through activities this week. It is the hope of technical educators that
students (traditional and non-traditional) will envision "tractors" in their future rather than only a more efficient
"horse".