In my last blog post, I discussed the stereotypes in regards to vocational schooling. Many believe that vocational schooling is the inferior path to take in terms of educational achievement. However, I discovered that most of the stereotypes are based on wrongful statistics and that vocational schooling is a very viable option for many students. President Obama would agree with this sentiment. In 2012, Obama asked Congress to appropriate $1.1 billion to improve vocational and technical education at the secondary-school level. Obama also proposed spending $1 billion on high-school programs that train students to be able to work in information technology and healthcare industries. If the President of the United States is specifically requesting for legislation in full support of vocational schooling, why are we still so automatically opposed? How do we overcome this ignorance? Is it possible to make vocational schooling a widespread movement if public approval were to be gathered?
Vocational schooling is not a new concept. However, in the eyes of the public, supporting vocational schooling and regarding it with respect is a rather new endeavor. The best way to ease the public into rendering support is by showing excellent examples. There are several models to examine, both internationally and in the United States. In Switzerland, education is free. With the American mentality in mind, one would think that most students would take full advantage of free secondary schooling. In reality, most Swiss students choose to immerse themselves in vocational training. Statistics show that 67% of Swiss students, after completing 9 mandatory years of compulsory education, willingly choose to enter vocational schooling. What is drawing them to this field, in quite the opposite manner of American students? In one TIME article written by Helena Bachmann, she describes a man by the name of Jonathan Bove. At the age of 16, he decided to enter vocational training at an insurance company. After three years of vocational training he received a job at a telecommunication company where he earns a starting salary of $52,000 per year. His beginning salary is incredible and that is due to the rigid standards set by VET schooling in Switzerland. Students who choose the vocational schooling track are offered a dual education where they work as an apprentice at a host company, while also taking classes at a VET school. (There are currently 80,000 apprentices for 58,000 host companies.) Switzerland puts in a lot of research and effort to determine the best job markets for their students, and they push to have these students enter a promising field. As a result, only 3% of young people in Switzerland are unemployed, which is one of the lowest percentages in 30 of the industrialized countries. What has allowed Switzerland to be so successful? Businesses invest 5.4 billion dollars into the VET programs each year, and they make a return of 5.4 billion dollars with a surplus of 400 million dollars.
Is this type of schooling feasible in the United States? Switzerland truly is doing education right. However, in America, there would be two major roadblocks to this type of system. One, business regulation is much more complex and rigid in the United States and it would be harder to get businesses to work with VET schools. Even if the business issue was overcome, the question still remains, “Will society ever be content with sorting high school student onto different tracks?”
John Klein, a writer for TIME magazine, argues that societal views will change slowly, but in the meantime, the United States should pursue vocational schooling. According to Klein, there are several vocational schools in Arizona that are very well-funded. The East Valley Institute of Technology and the Career and Technical Education Program and Monument Valley High School are great models for the American public to examine. Klein believes that through parental education on the positives of vocational schooling will relieve a great deal of the stigmas associated with vocational schooling, and allow the public to render a model similar to that of Switzerland.
Upon examination of all of the facts, the Switzerland model is very viable. As far as business regulations go, for the time being, I do not think that the United States is anywhere near being able to follow suit. However, that is not to say that progress cannot be made in the future. If society gets on board, by looking at good models and by being educated by policy makers, it is possible that the stereotypes and stigmas can be relinquished. Currently, Britain and India are both striving to adopt the Swiss model, and while it might not be feasible in the present, it is good food for thought for the future. What do you think?
Backmann, Helena. “Who Needs College? The Swiss Opt for Vocational School | TIME.com.” World Who Needs College The Swiss Opt for Vocational School Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
“Obama Calls for Focus on Vocational Training.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.
“Why Should We Care About Vocational Education?” Edutopia. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.