During Wednesday's meeting of the Michigan City Common Council, Kyle Kazmierczak of the Michigan City Fire Department gave a report about the progress of the fire science program at the AK Smith Career Center.

Ten students are set to graduate from the program, with another 21 enrolled next year for the second attempt at the class. The program appears to have been a resounding success as students have tested well above state standards and 70 percent of those enrolled are already working with volunteer fire department throughout the county.

Following this presentation, Council President Tim Bietry spoke eloquently about the need for such programs. He went back to his time as principal of both Elston and Michigan City High Schools and how he would preach then — and continues to — that administrators, educators and parents who push students only toward four-year colleges are actually doing those students — and the community — quite a disservice. He used Kazmierczak as an example of a student who bucked the four-year trend and has turned a technical certification into a great career.

Truth is, four-year college programs aren't right for everyone. We've all known people who have gone through four-year programs and gotten nothing out of it aside from a piece of paper and then ended up working in a completely different career field.

Bietry explained the overwhelming need for technical offerings for students who may not be interested in post-secondary education in a tradtional college setting.

The jobs that link up with these types of programs are crucial to the very fabric of society. They build houses, make products, ship goods across the country, etc. We can't function without them.

And yet, for years, the push has been for students to aim toward — as Bietry said — either a four-year college or the military. But, students who take advantage of programs at places like AK Smith learn valuable skills that lead to good jobs and careers and a comfortable lifestyle. They have tremendous value.

It should go without saying that the world needs welders, firemen and auto mechanics just as much as it needs doctors, bankers and lawyers.

The work being done at AK Smith for students throughout La Porte County is really tremendous. Students are able to gain great, real-world experience in  jobs that matter in career fields that make sense for them.

Kudos to Michigan City Area Schools and others for recognizing this trend and capitalizing on it. Now it's incumbent on those who help guide our children — including parents, themselves — to understand all the options available to them.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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