Actor John Ratzenberger speaks at UVU Career and Technical Education event

John Ratzenberger

John Ratzenberger is best known for his voice characterizations in Pixar movies and as Cliff Claven in the long-running TV series “Cheers,” but before his acting career, he was a woodworker.
Ratzenberger was the keynote speaker at a day-long event sponsored by Utah Valley University and the Career and Technical Education department. Ratzenberger is known for promoting the need for vocational education and “obtaining a skill set and the value of having trade,” said Kim Chiu, director of UVU’s CTE department.
Chiu said Ratzenberger’s heartfelt remarks to educators gathered at UVU were drawn from his background in the trades and manufacturing. The New England native was a carpenter who grew up in a blue-collar town with family members who worked in manufacturing. “He has been an advocate for these types of careers and technical education programs — the idea of the importance of teaching students skill sets so they actually have a trade,” Chiu said. “Even though a student may get an education, everyone who has a skill set can go anywhere and work.”
Ratzenberger also addressed the need to raise children to be problem solvers and critical thinkers.
“He comes from a generation of workers that were problem solvers,” she said, “and not one that had easy answers. He addressed the desire to give the next generation opportunities to solve problems and develop critical thinking skills. We need to ask ourselves if the children growing up today are developing those problem-solving skills.”
Chiu noted that last October Utah Gov. Gary Herbert declared 2018 as the year of career and technical education in Utah. This event fell in line with others designed to celebrate and educate. In addition to Ratzenberger’s address, attendees also heard panel discussions regarding health care opportunities and careers in the trades in Utah. Attendees included junior and senior high school counselors from throughout Utah, as well as counselors and academic advisers from UVU.
Attendees also discussed concurrent enrollment opportunities and how to best utilize technical education from Utah’s technical schools, such as Mountainland Technical College (MTECH). UVU President Astrid S. Tuminez also gave an address on the importance of trying to find relevant education for all students.
While at UVU, Ratzenberger visited the UVU Fire and Rescue Academy and watched students put out a demonstration fire. He also took the opportunity to get behind the controls of a flight simulator at the Aviation program’s location at the Provo Airport. An evening dinner provided and hosted by culinary students was also a part of the visit, intended to reflect the many faces of the trades at UVU.
Career and technical education at UVU encompasses one-year certificate and two-year technical degree programs. Approximately 16,000 students take a CTE course each year, Chiu said.
“We focus on getting a student a skill set within a shorter allotment of time,” she said. “And to also get them work ready. We work with industry to determine what is needed, what kind of jobs are needed, and how they might be changing. We keep our curriculum current to industry needs.”
Chiu suggested citizens might consider what would happen if all truck drivers went on strike, or if all plumbers and electricians decided not to work.
“These are essential jobs and essential workers,” she said. “Parents even sometimes frown upon these jobs, but we have to be aware that these are good careers to go into. They are high demand, and some of them are high pay, and we shouldn’t shy away from them because of any stigma.
“These are jobs that make the world go ‘round.”