|The Future of Vocational Education|
|posted by: Alix | June 11, 2012, 10:10 PM|
The goal of a high school education is to prepare a student for future success as an adult. Whether that means going on to college or immediately joining the workforce, students must be prepared to tackle an ever-changing economy. With success meaning something different for every student, experts assert that, in order to provide realistic options for all students, schools must focus on offering innovative vocational education programs combined with a strong focus on academics.
While some may say working with your hands is becoming obsolete in a new global economy, vocational education is still very popular when combined with a strong academic foundation. In Finland, for example, 45% of the students choose a technical track, not an academic track, after completing their basic education. In one of the world's most successful school systems, education leaders encourage students to choose a path best suited to their talents and interests.
Still, despite the demand, the stigmas of pursuing a vocational education are alive and well. As a society that places a high value on professions that are considered "white-collar," it's no surprise that many parents want their children to pursue careers that will maintain or increase their perceived social status. Education Professor Dr. Mark Phillips asserts that this stigma is dysfunctional. He explains, "Students should have the opportunity to be trained in whatever their gifts and preferences lead them to, rather than more or less condemning them to jobs they'll find meaningless. To keep a young person with an affinity for hair design or one of the trades from developing the skills to pursue this calling is destructive."
Although the stigmas exist, there are many schools across the United States that are implementing successful vocational education programs that provide both an academic foundation and on-the-job training. This balance is considered the future of vocational education. At City Arts and Technology High in California, all juniors and seniors secure internships in the community, where they are mentored by an on-site professional and regularly visited by their school advisors. Students jointly pursue vocational internships with a key focus on academics and critical thinking during school time.
Across the country in rural Georgia, a popular vocational tech center serves an entire community with classes and internship placements. The Valley Vocational Technical Center in Fishersville provides technical training in various career pathways to high school students during regular day programs while also providing adult programs during evening hours.
This new spin on vocational education is catching on. In an address to the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan articulated the need for a new system of career and technical education (CTE) that constitutes a radical departure from the vocational education of the past. While the previous mission of vocational education meant little more than obtaining a diploma and a low-skill job, the new goal should be for students to earn a postsecondary degree or an industry recognized certification that leads to a successful career.
What do you think about vocational education?