With a high school senior in the family, graduation has been on our calendar since the summer — and it’s now directly in our sights.
But pomp and circumstance shouldn’t make us lose sight of the fact that 4 out of 10 of the young women and men who will be tossing their caps won’t be going to college directly after graduation.
Delaware has put a tremendous amount of resources into supporting college-bound students — most notably through the Student Excellence Equals Degree and Inspire scholarships, which are truly life-changing tools. More than 2,500 students received those scholarships in 2019-20.
But those programs don’t help 40% of our seniors. Delaware’s career-bound graduates need more support in their job opportunities, training options and transitions into the workforce.
The new Focus on Alternative Skills Training Program, or FAST, which launches this fall, may pilot a path to support noncollege-bound grads that could rival SEED. Apprenticeships, trade schools and other nondegree programs will all have their doors opened with scholarships up to $10,000.
“I want to normalize postsecondary vocational training to the point that it is a viable and attractive alternative to getting young adults into well-paying jobs,” said lead sponsor state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown.
FAST exists thanks to a bipartisan team, including Pettyjohn and Reps. Bill Bush, D-Dover, and Bryan Shupe, R-Milford, among others — but it’s just a start.
As a pilot, it has enough initial funding — around $1 million — for only about 100 or so students at full scholarship levels, though federal funding is expected to help that grow.
The General Assembly must put real resources behind this initiative, and our schools should promote FAST scholarships as much as Free Application for Federal Student Aid workshops.
How can you help high school students on this path?
Dan Shortridge of Dover is a writer and father of three. He holds a Master of Education in instructional design and previously led marketing and communications for the Sussex Technical School District.