School district leaders can disagree about many topics, but there is one topic that keeps coming up: How do we prepare students to be successful at work?

It is a question we try to answer at Tolles Career & Technical Center.

As parents and educators, we dream our kids will be more successful than our generation. We often hear about preparing children to be college- and career-ready. What does that mean?

CNBC reported in 2017 that only 54.8 percent of students complete a college degree in six years.

Over the past decade, it has become clear many students are starting programs with lack of direction. Regardless of whether a student completes his or her program, after a student fails to continue enrollment in a postsecondary program, the student-loan bills start showing up.

Lack of direction and debt – that is what many of our young people are facing because we have lived through a generation that has declared, "The only way to be successful as an adult is to go to college."

How do we prepare students to make good choices that lead to being a successful adult? How do we teach them to follow their passions?

Many students will enroll blindly in a postsecondary program because they believe that is the path for everyone. For years, students and parents have come to believe a bachelor's degree is the new high school diploma.

Many of us have thought that the college experience is one that every student should have. With the rising cost of tuition and room and board, it forces us to step back and question if this is a truth.

With the increasing skills gap related to high-demand career fields, such as construction and manufacturing, we have to ask, "Is a four-year degree the only way or is it one of the ways?" Employers are sharing that the philosophy of college for all is highly problematic for the economy.

At Tolles, we speak daily with local business and industry partners that tell us they do not have enough skilled workers to keep up with the needs of our economy.

Unfortunately, if we do not fill these positions, many companies face the severe consequence of shutting down or moving the business to a place in which they can fill their openings.

At this point, you might think these positions have low pay.

Why wouldn't individuals be flocking to high-paying, stable jobs? The answer to this dilemma is both lack of skill training and misconceptions about the career fields.

And this is where Tolles takes center stage. Career technical education provides a viable pathway for students toward good-paying careers.

An increasing number of students already are taking advantage of that opening, but we also must change attitudes about career technical education and many skilled trade professions.

For students questioning if a traditional college is right for them, career technical education offers a foundation for a variety of occupations that do not require years of college and the debt that comes with it.

For students who are interested in pursuing a career that requires a traditional college education, career technical programs can pave the way for earning college credits as a high school student and being hired in positions that offer tuition reimbursement.

This is where everyone can agree. Let's help match student interests and aptitudes with employment and the ability to earn a living wage.

Tolles offers 21 programs, including Construction Technologies, Welding and Fabrication, Pre-Nursing, Pre-Pharmacy and Computer Networking, among many others.

Dublin and Hilliard juniors and seniors are eligible to take advantage of these programs and will remain students of their respective school districts. Courses at Tolles simply become an extension of their public school experience.

All students are required to earn a diploma. Why not earn a diploma, plus a jump start to an in-demand career?

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@tollestech.com.