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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Combest Lacer

Vocational Education Evolving into Today's Career and Technical Education

Stop! Don't click off this blog! I know what you are thinking......No one wants a history lesson, but just hear me out. If you are going to be an administrator over a CTE school, then you need to know a little bit of the history so that you can understand one of the biggest challenges that CTE education faces today. According to the Association of Career and Technical Education, Secondary Vocational Education was recognized federally in 1917 by the Smith-Hughes National Vocational Education ACT. This act provided funding for states with specific programs. However, Vocational Education has been around since the late 1700's and early 1800's, and really became popular during WWII, when it opened it's doors to adult training for defense. Vocational Education was first publicized as a means to prepare one for their career without obtaining a bachelor's degree. In 1963, the federal funding was changed to fund student population, including money for economically, academically, and disadvantaged students. Vocational Education evolved into a much more progressive form of education in 1984, when the legislation was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act. In 1998, the Vocational Education name was changed to Career and Technical Education. Unfortunately, the early stigmatism belief that the less fortunate or less educated students do the service work offered in a vocational education setting has cursed this hands-on learning approach for many years. From my perspective, this stereotype has improved greatly over the last 10 years, but there still remains a divide between the academia and career and technical beliefs.

When I was growing up, people would tell kids to go to college for something that you think that you would enjoy, and it was great advice. Twenty to thirty years ago, college graduates could find jobs. Unfortunately, times have changed, and students don't really have the luxury of getting to go to college to be what they want to be. They need to consider what jobs are available. No one wants to go to college or pay for college to graduate and not be able to find a job. However, people, parents, and schools are still pushing students to go to four year universities without discussing job availability for specific degrees. These generalized encouragements need to stop because they are not helping our youth be prepared for the future that they are dreaming of. My husband didn't go to college or pursue a skilled trade, therefore; he works in a factory. While he makes really good money, he works along side countless, young adults that have bachelor's degrees, doing the same job as him, unable to find a job in their field of study, and they are still paying on college loans. The reality is that today's youth has to choose a career that is in demand. It's really that simple. They can choose to learn a skilled trade in high school and earn industry certifications, go to work right after graduation and earn a good living; or they can attend a trade school, apprenticeship program, or earn an associate's degree in a career and technical area and earn even a better income. Students that pursue a college education in a skilled or specialized area are going to see significant yearly earnings. In today's world, the only decision that I caution is if a student goes to college to study a major outside of a career and technical pathway degree. If you don't believe me, then just google the top 25 or 50 highest demand jobs in the U.S.

As educators and parents, it is imperative that we teach students how to plan for a successful post-secondary transition. The questions that these young students have to ask themselves are:

  • What type of life style do I want to live?

  • How much money do I need to make to live that life style?

  • What jobs are available that I would be interested in that would pay me the wages that I want to make?

  • Can I just earn a certification in high school to do this job, or do I need to go to college/trade school?

  • Would I be willing to go to college/trade school for "X" amount of time to earn the necessary degree or certificate?

These five questions will give the student a great start in helping them determine what they are really willing to do. Either they will decide that the lifestyle they imagine is really not that important because they don't want to go to college/trade school, or they will decide that going to college/trade school will be worth it to them. After they determine this information, then that is when they need help with detailed career guidance from their high school guidance counselor and/or their teachers.

Let our voices be heard as we educate our communities, students, and parents about career and technical education. CTE is the NOW and the FUTURE for our children!

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