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Higher-Ed Leader Calls for Balance in Academics, Jobs Training

Amid calls for greater emphasis on vocational training that meets the needs of Texas employers, the state's higher education czar says universities should also remain focused on providing a “solid academic foundation."

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Raymund Paredes speaks at the podium during the Generation Adelante college fair.

In light of recent calls for a greater emphasis on vocational training in post-secondary education, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes discussed with reporters today the need for students seeking vocational education to also get a “solid academic foundation."

Too strict an emphasis on trade skills is “short-sighted” and limits job prospects, Paredes said during a conference call. 

Although liberal arts graduates may have trouble finding a job out the gate, Paredes said, their diverse skill-sets help ensure that they eventually get work. Students locked into a trade are harder-pressed to find work if no one in their field is hiring, he said.

Along with two-year vocational tracks for interested students, Paredes said that universities should upgrade four-year degree programs so that they better align with job market demands. He said many are already responding to that need, citing the trend of university students combining liberal arts with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.

Tom Pauken, chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission, has made highlighting the importance of vocational training his primary pursuit for 2012, especially in relation to four-year programs. 

“We’ve gotten completely away from the idea that we’ve got different talents and there are different approaches in terms of education,” Pauken has said.

Although tailoring education to best fit a student’s strengths is good, Paredes said, drawing such a bold line between degree types fails to balance the benefits of both. He said he would like to see a better balance between meeting job market demands and providing foundational academic skills. 

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