A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

The Value of Vocational School

There is a myth in our culture that all high school graduates must attend college.  This is a topic that gets introduced to them in middle school and then pounded into them once they reach high school.  This is a problem that needs to be addressed.  Schools are not talking to students about the other options that are out there, and this leaves them in the dark over other respectable vocational or employment opportunities.  As a society, it is our responsibility along with the schools’ educators to recognize our children's strong and weak points and steer them in the direction that best suits their abilities.

Our world would not be a better place if all of us were to become white collar professionals. There is a great demand for skilled blue collar workers in the fields of framing, sheet rocking, plumbing, and electrical work.  Part of the reluctance to seek vocational training is the ego-driven feeling that such work is beneath white collar work.  This is nonsense because these craftsmen are as professional and as needed as white collar college graduates.

There are several advantages about going into trade school or an apprenticeship program over a traditional four-year college.  First, there is the cost savings.  It is going to cost you less money to go to a trade or apprenticeship program.  Some apprenticeship programs may even pay for all of your schooling.  Second, you will be doing a great deal of hands-on learning.  This is valuable experience that employers like and is not done in the traditional college setting.  Third, most of your teachers have spent time working in the field that they are teaching.  You will be applying your classroom knowledge to real world situations while learning from someone who has real world experience, which is far more valuable than learning from someone who has just had classroom instruction.

It is amazing to me that these programs and others are rarely advertised to our graduating high school students.  Students have always been told “If you don't go to college, you will be working at a fast food place or joining the military.”  We need to get our children’s educators out of this mind-set and advertise these programs along with going to college in order to give our children all available resources to reach their full potential the best way they see fit.

There is no such thing as work being inferior.  Each job has within its experiences the seeds to teach our young people about the real world and how it works.  Working can provide you with valuable experience, and you may have a greater chance of moving up within the company if you are dedicated and motivated.


Anonymous's picture

as person who has a trade and a degree I feel that we don't give enough credit for apprenticeship programs . UW Stout did give me credit for my appernticeship , about a year (30-40 credits ) but most schools will not this . Also why can a person learn to read, write and learn math while attending shop courses in high school . this would then make the students apply what they learned to something they have an interst in. Here in Wisconsin school boards dismantled nearly all of any shop courses because they said it was to expensive. I don't get it

Anonymous's picture

I could not agree with you more! College is not a one-size fits all option. We need to educate young people about all careers that are available to them as well as expose them to different options. Construction has many career options and it is not only a blue collar job. Being a Foreman or Superintendent requires higher level skills, training and/or education to achieve these jobs and they pay very well. We do need to change the way we view these jobs and respect the workers for the quality work they do and for being craftsmen. Without them, we would not be able to have either our new energy efficient townhouses or our green commercial buildings for example. We at SER-Jobs for Progress believe in construction jobs which is why we are training our young clients for jobs in this industry.

Anonymous's picture

Thanks Stacy. This is so true and as members of the construction industry we need to all work hard to get the word out!

Ronnie's picture

When you think about it, school always has been about providing you with an education - not vocational training. In some countries, people with little aptitude for learning leave after finishing primary school; in others they might skip it altogether. In this country, we have set ourselves a minimum level of education that goes beyond knowing a few spellings and times tables: we want to give our children a taste of extended writing (essays), more interesting mathematics (algebra and trigonometry), and some basic science.
So, if people have no interest in learning, there is no obligation to stay past the age of 16. It is silly, however, to replace fundamental lessons with vocational schools ones - teaching cooking or gardening is fine, but not if it's at the cost of GCSE maths or english. Sure, many people can decide to become gardeners and cooks after they leave school, but that doesn't mean the essay-writing or trigonometry was wasted, even if they never use these things again. The founding principle of universal education is that we give everybody a chance at learning - regardless of its direct application to the economy.
Higher education should be for those following an intellectual path; those wanting to do plumbing or bricklaying need not spend 3 years and thousands of pounds to get a degree in the subject.

Lana's picture

One thing that I like that GA and AL have done is they have started promoting in the schools that Construction careers are viable careers for both men and women. Alabama started it a couple of years ago, Georgia rolled it out this year with www.gobuildalabama.com and www.gobuildgeorgia.com. In GA, they had meetings in all the regions in the State, invited all the local school counselors to educate them about Go Build. They also have information kits for them to take back to their schools.

Jamesmorrison's picture

I've know a lot of individuals who started from Vocational schools and then are successful engineers nowadays in the until now. Vocational schools are really a great alternative learning for individuals. http://www.excelbridge.com/

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