Coding, audio/visual production, and even app development are the latest programs that can be found in today’s “trade schools.” More and more people are starting to realize that in today’s society, tech jobs are the future…and those jobs pay really, really well. No longer do you have to go to college for 4 years, spend $80,000 – $100,000, and hope that you get a job when you graduate (so you can pay off your student loans). Today’s trade schools not only teach you valuable tech trades, in a quarter of the time it takes to get a degree, for way less money, many vocational programs partner with community companies and set you up with a job once you graduate.
But higher level vocational schools are not the only one preparing students for the future…so are many of today’s U.S. high schools.
The Purpose of a “Trade Education”
Although vocational, or trade education, has had a bit of a face lift over the past few decades, the purpose remains the same: To train individuals in areas where they show a desire or tendency to excel at, with the intent to give them an advantage of gaining work within their specialized vocation. Where agriculture, business and industrial were the main vocational focuses of the past, the modern student can choose from a list of technologies such as nanotechnologies, microchip manufacturing, robotics and nuclear medicine.
With these “high tech” jobs in such demand, it only makes sense that high schools have stepped up to meet the need to educate and graduate students who possess qualifications, and in some cases certifications, to effectively and efficiently perform the necessary duties that these jobs require. That is not to say that vocations such as agriculture and business are not important. On the contrary, in rural areas, agricultural training would be more beneficial than say robotics or nanotechnologies.
The History of Trade Schools
In 1917, vocational schools, or trade schools,were made a part of the standard high school educational curriculum through the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act. Vocational studies included agriculture, home economics, business, marketing, and health occupations. (Zepeda 1999) For decades following this act, the vocational educational system in the United States became common place as students throughout the country were graduating with the knowledge needed to secure a job after graduation. This proved helpful for individuals who could not afford a college education. Because of its acceptance, the 1963 Vocational Education Act was passed which further defined what vocational education was and put an emphasis on business and health occupations. This act also helped get needed funds to schools as to help with their vocational programs and it also included opportunities for individuals with special needs. (Gale Encyclopedia of Education)
The Perkins Vocational Education Act of 1983 further defined both the economic and social importance of a well-rounded vocational education. Economically speaking, vocational education could help individuals financially while helping to stimulate the economy. And socially speaking, the act helped to establish education for adults, not just high school students.
Trade Education Today
Having the opportunity to live close to one of America’s high-tech meccas, I’ve had been blessed to see a plethora of trade schools come into existence and transform the higher education arena. General Assembly, ITT Tech, and DeVry University are but a few of the schools that offer certifications in a plethora of high tech jobs. Furthermore they offer job placement to their graduates. These programs, like many others around the country, offer alternatives that actually have more value than the most college degrees. Can you tell that I’m a proponent of Trade schools over Colleges? That’s not to say that colleges are by any means a lesser form of academia. I’m finishing up my Doctorate…I love college. But I teach in a title one school with awesome kids who don’t have access to the money it takes to go to college. I see Trade schools as a way out for a lot of these awesome students.
Secondary schools are starting to see the value of encouraging a tech trade. The school where I teach is beginning to focus more on the tech side of education as we are in the beginning stages of launching an International Baccalaureate Career-related Program which will focus on equipping students with the skills they need to excel in the areas of Art, Visual Media, Computer Technology, and Bio-Tech.
Down the road in Manor, Texas, New Tech high is preparing their student in the areas of Visual Arts, and Video Game Design, among other disciplines. And in California, High Tech High has developed their educational strategy around the concept of design, allowing their students to express their passion and learn new skills through the avenue of creativity.
Research shows that vocational education has been an effective form of job placement. Furthermore, with technological advancements, there will be more training needed to make sure jobs are being filled with well qualified and efficient employees. For students who cannot, or do not want, to attend college, vocational training at the high school level is ideal. These programs can guarantee that students will have a better shot at getting a job over individuals with no training at all. We must make sure, as a society, that we do not get rid of these types of programs while trying to balance educational budgets. The old saying “Knowledge is Power” is especially true in the area of vocational education as we see the benefits it has had in the past and the possible positive impact it can have on future of individuals and the economy.