Vocational education is gaining in prominence becoming a viable pathway for students to get a jump start on their careers. Recent coverage by the PBS News Hour Should more kids skip college for workforce training? is part of a new series on reconsidering education.
Educators interviewed for the segment indicated the benefit of vocational schools is a two-way street offering an alternative to rising college costs and student debt. Gaining the skills needed to enter the workforce also does not preclude college since a growing number of employers offer tuition assistance in their benefit package.
The trend toward the tracking-everyone-to-college approach is problematic, said commenters. Forty percent of those who go to four-year college and 70% of those attending community colleges never earn their degree. Many arrive unprepared, fall behind and end up in debt with no job or skills, no idea what they want to do and a minimum wage job.
Those interviewed pointed to statistics bearing out the value of different education programs since test scores are on par with other students. Students get robust academics including Algebra, English and Physics, with 73% scoring above proficient in Math and 90% above proficient in English on statewide tests, nearly matching the statewide averages.
At Southeastern High School profiled by PBS, the graduation rate was 90%. While SAT scores lagged, some educators found another statistic more important. Ninety percent were in the workforce, continuing with their college education or in the military, according to follow-up with vocational students at the high school.
The high school received 800 applications for the 400 slots available. The situation is similar at the highly competitive Aviation High School in Queens from which two women students ATEC met last year graduated and are either working as an AMT for FedEx while attending Queens College or on a full ride to Cornell.
Clearly vocational education – or Career & Technical Education as educators call it – is getting new consideration. Historically, tracked students into college or vocational programs – much of which was based on race, social class, behavioral problems or learning disability tracked to VoTech at much higher levels than their counterparts. Educators cautioned against returning to the old tracking methodology in favor of relying on the student to choose their own path.
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