Thanks to Arizona education and business leaders, vocational education has seen a dramatic change in its curriculum and its general perception by both the public and educational system. It wasn’t too long ago a technical schooling was seen as no more than a means to clean the schools of the academically lazy and ‘bad’ students.
Today, these schools are viewed as exceptional jumping points for strong careers in a number of industries. They’ve become a respected part of economic recovery and development and an extraordinary opportunity for our young to train for welding, nursing assistants, auto technicians, machinists, electricians and more. Today, students take nationally recognized exams and get accredited certifications. The statistics between available jobs and qualified applicants in the fields these schools cover is expected to expand over the next 10 years, especially as baby boomers retire and the technology proceeds to advance. Vocational schools are preparing high school students today for that contingency.
Training programs are more focused and practical than in the past, when they were used to fill seats with troubled teens. Today, these schools are getting more and more applicants that are looking for vocational training. They are aware this training could cost thousands of dollars at private trade schools and community colleges. Under the right circumstances, many vocational schools can offer tuition free schooling.
In some circles, a vocational education is still stigmatized. There are those in the educational system that believe a high school graduation to college path is the only way. Some parents are concerned that this training limits a child’s potential and vision for the future. Neither view takes into account that the next step in any student’s life isn’t necessarily college.
Students often realize the benefits of having a skill straight out of high school to present to potential employers. A number of vocational programs actually have waiting lists. And college should never be counted out. High school grads that move into good jobs can always decide to attend college later. Only now, they will focus as well as have the opportunity to pay for it, alleviating burdens on family.
Far too many of our high school students are graduating into minimum wage positions. Too many of them accept that as their station. There should be encouragement to get into programs. Certification as a nursing assistant can lead to other opportunities in the medical field, such as Head Nurse or Dental Assistant. This would require going back to school and potentially increasing their salary by tens of thousands of dollars. But first, these students need to get their foot in the door with the proper training and support.
A good program can also help our students develop discipline. By mastering technical skills in a focused group environment, they learn to show up on time, become team players and demonstrate initiative through projects.
If you know of a high school student that is in need of career advice or hasn’t really decided where the next step after graduation is going to be, or if their plan is to get a job straight out high school, help them learn about vocational schooling. It’s not the end of their future, it’s the beginning.