The following is a summary and review of an article, US News and World---Vocational High Schools: Career Path or Kiss of Death?
posted by Allie Bidwell, staff writer on May 2, 2014
In this article, Ms. Bidwell compares the pros and cons of vocational high schools and the impact on students’ future careers. She notes that there vocational and technical schools are on the rise and are an additional path for middle-class students. According to her research states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Massachusetts and the number of vocational and technical schools has risen from anywhere between 70 to 90 such schools.
She notes that European countries like Finland and Germany have offered vocational education throughout history. However, previously in the United States, such courses were generally only for those students with disciplanary issues or low- performing in general education classes. Her article states that according to James Stone III, the director of the National Research Center for CTE (Career and Technology Education) at the University of Louisville, Germany places students on their career paths to either vocational training or academics based on their test scores in the middle grades.
She quoted Stone to say that we condemn those countries because of the age when they are tested when their system works well. Stone based his opinion on the fact that their unemployment rate is one of the lowest and their apprenticeship programs do not prevent them from going to college. Ms. Bidwell believes that even though the US has tried to get all students on a route to college in order to be successful in employment, many are suggesting alternate paths to reach the same goal.
In the article, it is stated that when President Barack Obama was in office, he requested more job training at both secondary and post-secondary levels. He felt that not only education was needed but skills for the jobs in “career industries, such as health care, technology, and engineering”. Educators are now accepting the belief that all students are not college material, nor do they have the desire to attend college.
Ms. Bidwell’s article included quotes from Mark Edwards, the Executive Director of Opportunity Nation. He was quoted as saying that "We've done a disservice in this country by suggesting that there's only one path to success, which is to get a bachelor's degree. " There are many good-paying jobs available today that, quite candidly, a four-year bachelor of arts degree does not prepare them for." He believes that the expansion of how we think about success is necessary for our workforce. Her article further states that vocational high schools provide a better hands-on approach to success and learning.
One educator from Ponitz Career Technology Center in Ohio, mentioned in the article, felt that some families are needing to find a way for their children to be successful and obtain their goals. Vocational and technical programs can turn those dreams into reality. It is noted that students graduating from such vocational and technology high schools typically continue their education in 2-4 years colleges. Students are not discouraged from going to college, they choices as to what careers to pursue.
A student emphasized that the teachers in career tech schools have been in the industry and give more credence to what you learn. This Ohio high school has a regular full curriculum that students must take, but in ninth grade, they are given a career exploration course. Then in their tenth-grade year, they begin the route.
Contrary to this, Carol Burris, a principal in New York who is well known as an expert in equity education, is concerned about having career choices being made too early. The article states that she fears that they are going in reverse by tracking and putting students on certain paths. Her belief is that students should not be placed in either academics or career courses prior to the age of 16. She feels that the students have not had enough life experiences to determine such routes.Ms. Burris is an educator who focuses on “college and career” rather than one or the other. According to her, the skills for both college and careers are not that different.
At another school, Mercy Vocational, Catherine Glatts had an opposite viewpoint. The article states that prior to coming to the technology and career school, Ms. Glatts worked at Lockheed Martin where recent college graduates were employed. Her current position is with socio-economic disadvantaged and at-risk students.One thing that she was astonished by while working at Lockheed was that the young employees came to work in extremely casual clothes. In the article, the authors quoted her as saying that these employees knew their technical skills and performed them well. She also stated that they were well-rounded with personal skills.
It is the opinion of Ms. Glatts that although teenagers do not always know what career path they might want to follow, by obtaining a career background by the time they graduate, they have a better opportunity for employment. It also allows them choices prior to entering college. It is “the nontraditional path to college”, thus enabling them to be able to be self-supporting. However, the authors maintain that a “balance…needs to be maintained between expanding opportunities for students and inadvertently pushing them down one road or another”.
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The Impacts of Career-Technical Education on High School Completion and Labor Market Success High school career-technical education (CTE) is a massive enterprise. Last year high school students spent more than 1.5 billion hours in vocational courses of one kind or another. Of the twenty-six courses taken by the typical high school graduate, 4.2 are career-tech courses (NCES 2003a).
Courses in general labor market preparation (principles of technology, industrial arts, typing, keyboarding, etc) and family and consumer sciences are offered in almost every lower and upper-secondary school. probably almost as many during middle school (NCES 2003a). Occupation-specific education is also available to most high school students. Nineteen out of twenty high school students attend comprehensive high schools. The schools that specialize in CTE offer a greater range of occupational programs and their programs are generally of higher quality.
The total number of occupational vocational credits earned has been remarkably stable: 3.00 for 1982 graduates and 3.03 for the year 2000 graduates (Digest of Education Statistics: 2003, p. 163). The Challenges presented by the Drive to Raise Academic Standards the last two decades have been challenging for high school career-technical education. The payoff to college rose dramatically during the 1980s causing a 30 percent increase from 1982 to 1998 in the share of students who enter college right after graduating from high school (NCES 2001a). The other major shock came from the National Commission on Excellence in Education’s call for schools to turn back ‘the rising tide of educational mediocrity’ threatening American competitiveness and living standards (NCEE 1982). Their report, A Nation at Risk, recommended that all teachers expect more of their students and that all high school students take a New Basics curriculum of at least four credits in language arts, three credits in mathematics, science and social studies, and a half credit course in computers. Responding to the report, many states increased academic course graduation requirements and introduced a minimum competency test requirement for receiving the high school diploma. A Career technical education could no longer be an alternative to strong academic skills.
Declines in vocational course taking occurred in states that raised academic course graduation requirements during the 1990s (Levesque et al, 2001). States that require graduates to pass minimum competency tests in core academic subjects to graduate from high school also tend to have reduced levels of CTE course taking. (Bishop and Mane 2001). Enrollments in traditional fields such as auto mechanics and materials production declined, while health-care courses tripled and computer related occupational courses sextupled from .16 credits in 1982 to .97 credits in 1998.
The increase in academic course taking was accomplished largely by increasing the total number of courses taken and secondarily by reducing the number of introductory vocational courses that students take in high school. The number of introductory career-technical education (CTE) courses taken by the typical high school graduates fell from 1.62 in 1982 to 1.3 in 1990 but has remained stable during the 1990s. While vocational course taking has been stable or declined slightly in high school, it has risen dramatically at the post-secondary level. Occupational certificates and occupationally oriented AA and BA degrees rose 33 percent more rapidly than young adult population. Declines in tax revenue are forcing many schools to scale back CTE offerings, limiting student choice to just a few low-cost programs. A few states are consolidating low incidence CTE programs at community colleges and requiring high school students who want to pursue these fields to spend substantial time commuting to a distant community college. …….This suggests a need to reexamine the economic returns to career-technical education in high school in a postindustrial society like the United States.
Summary of article from-
Forbes Magazine, by Nicholas Wyman, online article
Sep 1, 2015
Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools.
In this article Mr.Wyman discusses the need to bring back vocational training in American high schools. He notes that traditionally high school students were taught not only academics but job-ready skills, as well. He reminisces about how many readers enjoyed being in wood-working or similar classes. His article goes on to say that “ability tracking of students” began in the 1950s. This was the educational philosophy that students following a college-bound curriculum should not have any vocational training. Students not college bound should be enrolled in “shop” classes along with a foundation in academics. According to Wyman, the education community was not supportive of this type of “ability tracking”. It soon became what was considered a “remedial track” for lower class and minority students.
However, with the change in attitude, vocational education did not increase in high schools. The new trend then began for all students to be on the college-bound track. This is still the focus of most U.S. high schools.The author of this article believes that everyone has a variety of skills and learning styles. He notes that not all students are ready for higher education coursework. The courses offered in college do not appeal to all students. He states that “some focus best in a lecture hall or classroom; still others learn best by doing.”Mr. Wyman uses the data from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in his paper. This information shows that 68% of high school graduates attend college. Thus, over 30% of the graduates leave high school without job skills training.
He also notes that of those who do enter college, more than half of them do not complete their college degree. This results in lost time, and a greater student loan debt. In fact, his research shows that 1/3 or more who do graduate with degrees end up with careers that do not require college degrees. The article compares college graduates and all high school graduates that did and did not have vocational training. In this comparison, Mr. Wyman states that overall those with vocational training are more likely to be employed with higher paying skilled jobs.
He states that even with the data showing that four-year college programs are not serving the majority of high school students’ needs, vocational programs are continuing to be deleted by many states and districts. His research uses data from the Los Angeles Unified School District, wherein 2013, decisions were being discussed to eliminate most of the CTE programs at the end of that year. Budgetary constraints were the main reason for such cuts to the programs. However, he notes that given the fact that approximately 70% of those high school students do not either go to college or do not graduate from college, the cutting of vocational classes is not justified in the long-term outcome.
In this article, it is discussed that the US business world including manufacturing is becoming highly skilled with salaries to match. The skilled workforce is necessary for this modernization. With the elimination of vocational training in high school, a shortage of such skilled workers has occurred. Offerings through community colleges for these jobs are available, thus allowing students to obtain the vocational training needed. Students do not have to spend near the amount of money as they would have in a four-year college. Mr. Wyman also discusses that many students who do choose vocational education in high school or after graduation go on to college later. It is realized that “transferable skills” are needed. Employees often have multiple jobs in their life affording them opportunities to gain greater skills.
Mr. Wyman ends his article by noting that in the past our education system in the U.S. offered various pathways for students in high school including vocational and manufacturing training. He firmly believes that we are doing an injustice to our students and our economy by not continuing this effort.
In an article, Vocational education facilitates entry into the labor market but hurts employment at older ages, published by Eric Hanushek, Ludger Woessmann, and Lei Zhang on November 21, 2011, the impact of the labor market’s force being hurt as employees get older was addressed.he authors questioned the advantages and disadvantages of vocational education classes as the workforce gets older. Their paper noted that as economies change, so do the advantages.
They stated that the European Commission of 2010 asked for improved vocational education and training (VET) but did not address the facts supporting the implications. The Commissions was quoted as saying, “ If Europe is to maintain its position as the strongest exporter of industrial products in the world, it must have world-class VET. In the knowledge society, vocational skills and competencies are just as important as academic skills and competencies.” Without evidence on how to obtain this and its long-term outcomes, there is doubt about its validity.
The article states that the lack of data regarding this can be noted in the following:
• It was noted that there are few common denominators between students entering vocational classes and those entering the normal education route.
• Next, the authors reported that the total effect meant that data needed to be compared not just within a country, but across multiple countries.
• In realizing this, it would be difficult to make comparisons because the actual programs might differ greatly from one country to another.
They explored current research to compare the “life-cycle” of the labor market regarding vocational education (Hanushek et al, 2011). The research compared experiences of employees at different age levels from various countries. By using this data, the authors were able to make valid statements.They used data to look at the information regarding employment of the labor force in both young and old employees in relation to whether or not these employees had a general education or vocational education as their basis of learning. The authors believe that looking at the older workforce of today can give a preview of what the younger workers will be like later in their lives. The data utilized assessments in reading and math along with the economic and social background of students. This offered them the opportunity to determine what might impact the students in their future educational choices. The article was quoted as saying, “Among other things, the data allow us to match each individual with vocational education to an individual with general education who is observationally comparable in terms of tested skills, family background, age, and years of education.”Their research did, in fact, find that the older an employee becomes, the less impact his/her vocational education training can make in the workforce as compared to those with a general education background. In the beginning, the employee with a vocational education can easily get into the workforce. This is due to the original vocational training being outdated, as technology and processes change. It was noted that two things occur as workers become older. It seemed that in all of the countries involved, those with vocational training had lower employment with age. Also, this can be attributed to more intense training necessary for employees to maintain positions, thus having to update their skills more frequently as they age.
The article noted that the younger vocational education workforce has a greater rate of employment. The rate, however, is opposite once this workforce hits their midlife years. The authors stated that this is most apparent in countries such as Denmark, Germany and Switzerland and least prevalent in the United States where the vocational training is not as formalized.
The article noted the following references for their data.
European Commission. 2010. "The Bruges Communiqué on enhanced European Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training for the period 2011-2020", 7 December, Bruges.Hanushek, Eric A., Ludger Woessmann, and Lei Zhang (2011), "General education, vocational education, and labor-market outcomes over the life-cycle", NBER Working Paper 17504, National Bureau of Economic Research, October.Krueger, Dirk, and Krishna B Kumar (2004), "Skill-specific rather than general education: A reason for US-Europe growth differences?", Journal of Economic Growth, 9, 2:167-207.Ryan, Paul (2001), "The school-to-work transition: A cross-national perspective", Journal of Economic Literature, 39(1):34-92