Is vocational education making a comeback?

With Congress and President Obama placing renewed emphasis on the importance of vocational education, many states are starting to march to the same drumbeat.

In California, the state plans to spend close to $1 billion on career, or vocational, education in an effort to train more students who may not want to attend college and to also push them towards a post-secondary education.

Many schools are starting to partner with local companies, community colleges, and four-year institutions of higher education to prepare students for life after high school.

Dating back as early as 1990, many states pivoted towards pushing more students to college and no longer emphasized vocational learning. As college was and still is seen as a great equalizer, many political and educational leaders thought that sending kids to college whether they were prepared or not was good.

Research found that between 1990 and 2013, there was an uptick of just three percent of kids immediately enrolling in college after high school. While that information isn’t well-rounded as it doesn’t take economic reasoning into account, it still gives an idea as to why some students choose not to attend college.

As California is spending money to better customize its educational opportunities for students, so will New York and Massachusetts. Both states will inject more than $100 collectively into efforts to make schools more friendly for career education.

But like anything else, these recent moves haven’t come without concern. As many tried to steer students towards college in the 90’s, there is worry that some students who struggle academically will be moved to a track of career training instead of college.

If the lessons of the 90’s have taught us anything, its that we cannot and should not take a one size fits all approach when it comes to education. Students still need guidance on what track may be best for them, and college should obviously still be a part of their options even if they are pegged as bad students.

Tailoring education opportunities for all students should be part of the process, but reintroducing vocational education back into the fold is a step in the right direction.

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