Why vocational training is essential in education
Views 25 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 11 - 14 - 2018 | By: Emily Washburn
I can’t count the number of times I have been asked, “Where are you going to college?” Luckily, I enjoy college, and learn well in a classroom setting. However, there are many students who feel out out of place in the classroom that have suffered from the delegitimization of trades in America. According to Monster.com, a job hunting site, skilled trade careers are labor jobs which require specific training, like carpentry, tile setting, and electrical work. These jobs are wellpaying and in high demand, but are often overlooked and minimized in an educational setting with dire consequences for students and the economy.
According to Forbes, this trend began in the early 1950’s, a “track system” was implemented in schools. Those going to college would receive no vocational training: no woodshop, no metal working, etc. Whatever the intention, parents and teachers alike believed that students were assigned to a track based on their race and socio-economic background, not on their ability. Suddenly, vocational training, once viewed as a legitimate and expected form of education became a “remedial track that restricted minority and working class students.”
Since the 1950’s, schools have continued to cut vocational training programs, seemingly with the assumption that everyone goes to college. In actuality, the Bureau of Labor Statistics states over 30 percent of high school students don’t go on to college. Perhaps even more disheartening, of the 68 percent of graduates who begin a 4-year program, 40 percent do not complete it. In addition, 53 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed.
This data is the manifestation of the narrative that ‘you will only be successful if you go to college.’ William Stixrud, co-author of “The Self Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives,” states that this narrative “affects high-achieving kids, for whom a rigid view of the path to success creates unnecessary anxiety, and low-achieving kids, many of whom conclude at a young age that they will never be successful and adopt a ‘why try at all’ attitude.”
Essentially, you have two damaging narratives that affect children from a young age: ‘vocational training is second best to a college education’ and ‘the only way to be successful is to go to college.’ Forbes confirms this has led to a shortage of workers in the modernized manufacturing sector, jobs which don’t require a four year degree and pay well, and a large amount of wasted money for the students who began college and never finished the program.
The solution for this issue is twofold. First, high schools must stop treating vocational training as expendable. When funding is cut to these programs, those that don’t go to college or do not graduate from college are deprived of valuable practical skills. Assuming the goal of education from kindergarten to twelfth grade is to train children for success and self-sufficiency in the world, vocational training is not something schools can afford to cut.
Secondly, parents and educators alike must work to change the narrative that college is the only option for success, or that trades are somehow less important than a four year degree. As it is now, students who do not learn well in a traditional classroom setting or who enjoy what little training they receive in school are being told that they will never be successful.
Only by shifting the way we perceive trade jobs will we fill the vacuum in the manufacturing center and affirm those that could be successful in a trade job.