The Western View: Vocational Education

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Western View

Len Wilcox talks about the state of vocational education in our schools.

Vocational Education

Bring back vocational training – So says author Nicholas Wyman, an expert in education and training, in a recent issue of Forbes Magazine.  Those of us in Ag couldn’t agree more, and are thankful for the programs offered through the Ag department in our area high schools.  But students outside of agriculture programs don’t have that advantage, and are not taught the basic job skills associated with manual labor.  Those students are on a college program, whether it suits them or not.

When I went to school, and maybe when you did too, kids were tested and placed in different tracks, depending on the results of the tests and the student’s interests.  Some kids took courses that prepared them for college; others took vocational training courses that taught them to work with their hands and power tools.

But Wyman points out that Ability tracking did not sit well with educators or parents, who believed students, were assigned to tracks not by aptitude, but by socio-economic status and race.  So when the dust settled from that argument, we ended up prepping all kids for college.  But, we’ve learned that the fact is, not everyone is suited for college.

The statistics are illuminating.  Wyman says about 68% of high school students attend college. That means over 30% don’t, so they have no job skills at all.  But even the 68% aren’t doing so well. About 40% of students who start a college program don’t finish, which translates into a whole lot of wasted time and money.  Of the students who do graduate, more than a third ends up in jobs they could have had with just a high school diploma.

It’s also not necessarily true that college degree means better pay.  Sometimes yes, of course, but in other cases, a graduate of a vocational program ends up with a higher paying career.

We have to agree with Mr. Wyman’s conclusion: we need to bring vocational education back to the core of high school learning.

I’m Len Wilcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.