#372. Vocational Education – Is it a Thing of the Past?

Posted on | The Agurban
Vocational Education – Is it a Thing of the Past?

Our October 25, 2011 Agurban, 
Who Needs a Job, discussed the skills gap between workers and the jobs employers had available We thought that this recent article was a good follow-up: “Some employers want return of vo-ed training“.

It is no secret that workers with college degrees earn more than those without. But, as one metal fabrication company president says, “You don’t need a four-year degree to run our sheet metal fabrication robots, but you do need to know geometry, how to read a blueprint, and how to use a tape measure.”

“We have a lot of people who are in high school who could be doing a vocational track, who could be learning these technical skills, but they’re not,” said Neal McCluskey, and education analyst at the Cato Institute.

As recently as the early 1980s, American high school students had the choice of taking college prep or technical classes. This two-track system still thrives in countries like Germany, a country considered a role model by experts who study labor and education issues.

Two-year technical schools and a growing number of community colleges offer education in hands-on fields like health care technology, mechanics, or nursing, where job shortages are rife, but students and parents often overlook this option.
Germany’s two-track educational system also works because it’s integrated with apprenticeship programs, a rarity in American industry.

In Charlotte, NC, manufacturer Siemens opened a factory to produce gas turbines. The company worked with local Central Piedmont Community College to design a curriculum teaching would-be workers how to operate the equipment.

Initiatives like this are helping to balance the disconnect between jobs and skills, but experts say kids should get an earlier start learning the skills they’re going to be using for the next four decades or so. Waiting until college to learn skills like applied math or equipment operation, puts many American students at a disadvantage, especially when they may have to shoulder the cost of higher education.

We have seen some of our local high schools eliminating their vocational classes. And they likely will not return as the teaching equipment was sold. We are also hearing from local manufacturers that they have good paying jobs that high school graduates could succeed at if they had the vocational training that students in the prior generation had.

What is happening in your community and in your schools? We would like to share some good ideas with our readers.