Wal-Mart class is not enough to help students

Alex Belz

Four Detroit public schools started a new program on Thursday, Feb. 11, in which students learn in a classroom how to be employees at Wal-Mart. The program also offers them an entry-level after-school job during their training. Though this program has been met with much controversy, it’s clear with Detroit’s 50 percent unemployment rate and its 26 percent graduation rate, something needs to be done to help students find jobs after high school.

In better times and with better conditions, perhaps such steps wouldn’t be necessary. But with things as they are, I wonder why more companies don’t participate as well. The Wal-Mart program has been met with a lot of criticism and in many ways a lot of it is deserved. Yet, if the program is helping students, schools should help them even more by diversifying the program and letting more companies in a variety of fields offer training and courses in high schools.

Tom Cory / NW

Lately, there has been much in the news about teachers and administrators at Detroit Public Schools trying to change the Detroit Public School system in order to improve the education of students. I want to know how they could possibly get on board with a plan that trains students to go down just one path: working at Wal-Mart.

The rationale of trying to give them real world on-the-job experience is a good one. The program offers them 11 weeks of job-related training and 10 credits for in-class and work experience. Advocates for the program also point out that it gives them an opportunity to earn money and be exposed to a different environment, since all of the Wal-Mart locations are outside of the city and in the suburbs.

Other businesses should become involved in similar programs, so that students will have a choice of what kind of career path they might want to learn about. Options such as learning how a grocery store or an architecture firm works would give many chances to learn about employment and have more opportunities.

If the goal is to help both students and boost the city economy at the same time, programs like these will help tremendously. The jobs Wal-Mart offers will bring more money into the homes of families of the students who work there. With the unemployment rate in the city of Detroit, it would be very hard for students to find jobs without the school’s assistance. And even if the students don’t intend to stay at Wal-Mart forever, it does give them a first job.

The problem, though, is that there is no other company offering to train and teach students about their company and their trade. Offering students a program like this, but only teaching them about Wal-Mart, will give students a skewed perception of what is out there for them in the real world.

The program certainly gives students work experience and on-the-job training, something which is needed in a city with such a low employment rate. But without varied options of businesses to choose from, students are being shuffled into learning how to do just one job, at one corporation. That hardly seems fair to the students.