If Snohomish County's economy and job prospects are to grow over the coming decade, its schools and vocational-training programs need to...

If Snohomish County’s economy and job prospects are to grow over the coming decade, its schools and vocational-training programs need to offer courses designed to give students skills in emerging businesses and industries.

County Executive Aaron Reardon told educators and vocational-career advisers Monday that 100,000 county residents travel south for jobs in King County. To create jobs and stem the exodus of workers, he said, the county’s schools need to refocus their job-training efforts.

In October, Reardon joined school superintendents and the presidents of Edmonds and Everett community colleges in calling for better alignment of course offerings and vocational programs with the county’s work-force and economic-development efforts.

A $160,000 study commissioned by the colleges and the county Workforce Development Council last summer recommended that schools add specific training to meet projected growth in the fields of biotechnology, tourism, construction, education and health care.

Monday’s meeting, hosted by the Everett School District, extended the conversation about the county’s work-force development to several school-district vocational-education advisory committees. The meeting also included teachers and administrators from the Sno-Isle Technical Skills Center, a vocational-training center near Paine Field.

Sue Ambler, the chief operating officer for the Workforce Development Council, said the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., are likely to produce a greater need for skilled construction workers. And she said the region is “desperate” for skilled nurses.

Darrell Chapman, the president of the Snohomish County Labor Council, told attendees the construction industry is facing a huge shortage of workers but that schools over the past decade have closed shop programs in favor of computer training.

He said students who receive a strictly academic education lack real-world job experience and interest in the building trades.

District administrators said they face pressure to raise student academic achievement at the same time financial resources have shrunk.

Larry François, the superintendent of the Lakewood School District, said high schools don’t have the expertise or programs to train students for every industry targeted for growth. But he said it is important that schools review their course offerings for relevance.

“We shouldn’t be preparing kids for yesterday’s jobs,” he said.

Lynn Thompson: 425-745-7807 or lthompson@seattletimes.com