Ever try to get a carpenter, plumber or electrician out to your house the next day? Ever have to wait a week for an auto mechanic to fix your car? Ever have to go several days without telephone or cable service after it was cut off to your house?

Unfortunately, California faces a severe shortage in each of these job areas. The good news, however, is that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hopes to remedy the problem with a massive new investment in career technical educational programs at community colleges. His budget proposal released this week calls for spending an additional $52 million, specifically for enhancing curricula, recruiting and training teachers and building classrooms and facilities.

For Del Norte County, with a College of the Redwoods branch located in Crescent City, landing some of those additional dollars would make a big difference.

California faces a significant challenge that demands we invest more in technical career education. Our competition no longer is just with other states for businesses who want an educated workforce and a local college to train their employees where they locate. Our competition is an increasingly competitive global marketplace. If we're to keep businesses here and draw them from elsewhere, we'll need to build a technically literate and capable workforce. Let us never forget that without businesses to employ people and to pay taxes, our communities shut down.

Investing in career technical education simply must be seen as important as sending students to universities. The majority of our high school graduates will not go on to a four-year college, after all. Yet career technical education can provide them with high-paying and satisfactory jobs - jobs that a high school diploma rarely is good enough to qualify one for anymore.

Despite this, California has chronically underfunded career technical education. That has been especially so during the past few years, when a shrinking amount of education dollars has caused administrators and oversight boards to shift money to academic-oriented programs. This has prevented technical education equipment from being updated and caused many demoralized instructors to leave.

Local elected officials and civic leaders ought to get behind the governor's proposed increases for career technical education. It'll benefit our community college and most importantly, Del Norte residents.