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RICHFIELD CENTER CHIEF SEES VITAL NEED FOR VOCATIONAL EDUCATION

Richard Maxfield says his generation of educators is still preparing all youngsters for college when many need other types of training - specifically vocational education.

Maxfield, director of the Sevier Valley Applied Technical Center in Richfield, has served on the State Board of Education and the State Board of Vocational Education. He has also worked as a private consultant to business and education.While Maxfield recognizes the importance of a college education for those who can succeed academically, he contends that more than 40 percent of jobs today need only six months of training. "Our task is to re-educate parents, high school faculties and students."

Maxfield said more than 80 percent of the work force needs special training and predicts that number will increase to 90 percent by the end of the decade. "In my day, only 20 percent of people needed special training for work, and high school did that."

He encourages high school students to get a start on early education, noting that not many are taking advantage of that opportunity even though they can attend the Technology Center free of charge during evenings, weekends or in the summer.

"We've got a good working relationship with the high schools and,it's getting better all the time," Maxfield said. "They are starting to see the need for vocational education."

One new drawing card at the center this year is transportation for students from Wayne County High School and the Garfield School District to the center one day each week. State policy allows high school students free access to the center's programs.

Maxfield said vocational education programs are serving less than 15 percent of the needs in the surrounding community because of a lack of funding. "We will expand our course offerings to fit the needs of the community if we receive funding," he declared.

Sevier Valley Tech's enrollment has increased 20 to 25 percent this year while losing nearly $150,000 in federal funding. That has caused the administration to scramble to cover the loss, Maxfield said.

Meanwhile, his program for the future is being developed and expanded in three areas, namely "outreach," "custom fit" and "applied manufacturing."

The outreach program has expanded the student base. Mobile classrooms are used for the center's courses at area high schools when student travel is prohibitive.

The custom fit program has instructors working with companies to train employees. New or existing companies who may be losing their competitive edge can be helped back into a competitive position, Maxfield said.

Applied manufacturing was introduced for the first time at the institution this year, made possible by a $120,000 initial grant from IBM. It has helped the school to begin a program to teach manufacturing skills. With a trained work force in place, Maxfield believes the community will have an advantage in attracting business and industry.

"Other programs are needed," the director said. "Health occupations, communications technology, agriculture and other fields all need more training support."