- Associated Press - Friday, January 22, 2016

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker asked Wisconsin’s education leaders at their annual convention Friday to help change the mind-set of those who influence the career paths of young students to include the fact that there are plenty of jobs that don’t require a four-year college degree.

Walker spoke at the Joint State Education Convention where hundreds of school district administrators and school board members gathered for the last session of their three-day meeting.

Walker told education leaders that in his travels around Wisconsin, he hears from local businesses about their need for skilled workers. Guidance counselors, parents and others who influence young people have to promote technical careers as well, he said.

“So many careers, the good paying, fulfilling careers that I hear about every single day require a two-year associate degree from a technical college,” Walker said. During a recent meeting with small business owners and farmers in Osseo, Walker said they told him of their immediate need for workers who don’t necessarily need an undergraduate university degree.

“We’ve got to lift up and recognize those career paths that require an apprenticeship or associate degree,” he said, offering Germany as an example.

“Skilled workers are lifted up on a pedestal” and are valued just as much as a doctor or lawyer, Walker said.

The governor said he was not discounting the state universities’ undergraduate or graduate degrees, but believes not every student needs to follow that path to be successful. He said promoting associate degrees can be as simple as having technical school brochures available at a high school.

Walker also reiterated many of his education initiatives he offered at his State of the State address earlier this week, including his plan to direct to public schools any savings achieved through restructuring the state employee health care coverage.

He said he planned to ask for funding in the next budget to develop more college course offerings at the high school level to allow students to earn a university degree in less than the typical four years or earn a technical degree. Walker said he has been talking with University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross about structuring a three-year college degree.

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