RI rethinks approach to technical education (NBC10)

Rhode Island is changing the way students learn technical skills and preparing them for jobs of the future.

Prepare Rhode Island is a new effort to make sure high school students are ready for the working world.

Instead of sending some kids to shop class and others to college prep, Rhode Island's education commissioner says the state is taking a new approach.

"We need to prepare kids to do both. They might be welding and shipbuilding in the morning, and taking advanced placement classes in the afternoon," said Dr. Ken Wagner, education commissioner.

Wagner said Rhode Island has expanded the number of career and tech programs by 56 percent in the past three years. High schoolers can choose any program, at any school across the state.

"Students say, 'Wow, I can do anything I want?'" Wagner said.

At the same time, the state has boosted the number of students taking advanced placement classes -- up 28 percent since 2015.

AP courses give students college credit, which can save money and give them a head start.

"We just prepare you to be ready for college AND work, because kids change their minds. They change their minds all the time. We need to make sure that they have the tools when they make their decisions to be successful," Wagner said.