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Small Businesses Must Embrace Workforce Education to Ignite Growth

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For almost three decades, I have charted a course of economic freedom through business ownership. The journey has taught me that economic freedom and success should not be confined to a single path. Most people believe that to be wildly successful in business, you must pursue a traditional four-year college education. That was the route that I took and I will never discourage anyone from that path if it’s right for them. However, it is crucial to dispel the notion that a four-year degree is the sole route to happiness and prosperity. We must actively work towards removing the stigma surrounding workforce education and encouraging young people and seasoned learners to explore alternative educational pathways that lead to economic freedom.

Recent data from the College Board reveals that the average loan debt for a bachelor's degree among the class of 2020 amounted to $28,400. This crippling debt burden alone highlights the importance of considering non-traditional educational opportunities. Vocational education, in particular, provides a practical and cost-effective solution by equipping people with specialized skills that can lead to fulfilling and financially rewarding careers.

As a board member for Concerned Communities for America, it was inspiring and sobering to hear participants of our recent business summit talk about how workforce education ignited their businesses and led to economic freedom. The event held in Birmingham, Alabama, exemplified the collective eagerness of business leaders, educators, and students to access success through workforce education. The gathering emphasized the pressing need to empower individuals with practical skills that are in high demand across various industries. It showcased the tremendous potential that lies within vocational and technical opportunities.

I am a firm believer that small businesses are the true job creators. They play a vital role in our economy, driving innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to local communities. As far as innovation and artificial intelligence that will drive the future, many of those skills can be gained through workforce education. Workforce education provides the human capital and innovation that powers small businesses.

To fully embrace the potential of vocational education, we must challenge the outdated stigma that is often associated with it. Vocational programs should be celebrated as valuable and honorable choices that offer viable career paths and significant earning potential. By recognizing the practical skills acquired through workforce education, we create a society that values diverse talents and appreciates the importance of skills-based and relevant learning.

Speaking to business leaders and educators in Birmingham, The Concerned Communities summit in confirmed for me the importance of partnerships that should form between educational institutions and local industries. By integrating practical training into their curricula even high schools can bridge the gap between academia and the job market. The antiquated classes like “shop” and “home ec” should all be replaced with classes on the artificial intelligence and the blockchain.

This approach ensures that graduates are well-prepared for real-world challenges and have the skills sought after by employers. At the same time, employers must recognize the value of vocational education and actively seek individuals with specialized skills, fostering business growth.


Bruce LeVell is a Georgia business owner and serves on the board of directors of Concerned Communities for America.


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