Thanks Tom for bringing a spotlight to this ongoing discussion via this platform. Having worked closely with high school students doing GIS over the past few years, from my perspective, there is merit in both the "traditional" college path and the certification pathways that are emerging around the U.S. right now. It boils down, in my opinion, to what each individual really wants to contribute to the profession. You mentioned a former student of mine in your post, so I will start there. In his case, his interests in becoming a geophysicist had me strongly encouraging him to pursue a "traditional" pathway at university. His high school internship experiences allowed him to step right into the university's GIS department for additional learning opportunities there. On the other hand, one of our visions for our high school internship program is to train workers who will stay local, continue with the local government, and "move up the ladder" there. For example, our current county planner see the light at the end of the tunnel and hopes to be able to train the folks that will be stepping into his roles when he retires. A certification pathway allows those individuals to work their way up through that system, without having to leave the community to pursue a degree at university. We also must be mindful of the intangibles of a college experience. Many folks develop leadership and problem solving skills when they first "leave the nest" and are somewhat self-sufficient for the first time. An experience that sometimes cannot be replicated easily when you are working an entry level job with a supervisor telling you what to do. Again, what is best is not universal. Each person must decide what is best for them. These are not the sorts of things that high schoolers spend their days thinking about. We as the mentors and role models for these students need to continue to keep our pulse on the directions that industry is heading so that we are providing up-to-the-minute advise to our children, not just a view of "when I was your age".
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