How about the kids who will not choose to attend college after high school? What about them? Are we, as the community of Billings, willing to “Stand 4 Our Students” as this mill levy campaign asks?
I believe that our community is generous, and that we understand the importance of investing in our future. I believe that this mill levy is just the beginning of a much needed correction by our school district. In a recent conversation with our new superintendent, Greg Upham, I was encouraged to hear him speak of his passion for supporting those students who perhaps need our help more than the career/college focused students. He shared my belief that we are missing these students. Today our educational system is highly focused on readying our students along a pathway to higher education, but there is so much missed opportunity for us to guide career paths for students who may not attend college.
Having worked most of my life in construction, both growing up building swimming pools with my family, and now building homes and neighborhoods, I have learned the importance of what the construction industry brings to our local economy. Construction and housing are a huge sector of our economy, and yet today, more than ever before, we are facing a labor supply crisis in many of the construction fields. This has been identified by the National Association of Home Builders, as the top challenge in our industry in 2019.
We continue to struggle with housing affordability, and by and large, this is directly related to the inability of our industry to deliver the necessary stock of housing. If we don’t have the people to help us build, or we cannot afford to hire them, then we can’t get the job done, and housing affordability suffers and becomes a critical issue. This begins in, and will be solved in our schools. There are so many opportunities today, to follow a career path where a college degree is not a requirement, but specific skills are required. Today this is mostly learned on the job, but it wasn’t that long ago that many of the building blocks, if you will, of these trades were taught in our schools. Where has shop class gone? How about metal working?
What if we could create internship and apprenticeship programs again, that would place students directly into those fields where they desperately are needed. I cannot count the number of times I have heard from our trade partners that students are just not interested in the trades anymore. But guess what, they should be. These are outstanding jobs today, where our kids can make good livings. We need carpenters, plumbers, electricians, concrete finishers, tile installers, welders, heavy equipment operators, and the list goes on and on.
Neighbors, it is time we take a step forward in supporting a high school mill levy. It has been quite a few years since we have done so. It is time we support a mill levy which is steering our school district to refocus on rebuilding these career paths for our kids. I believe that this is just the beginning, and I believe it is a step in the right direction. I would ask you to support the mill levy for our high school students, because it is an investment in our own community. Our mission at McCall Homes is "empowering people and building community". We believe in the community of Billings, and we are willing to stand up for our students.