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The President’s Call For A New Vocational Training

The President’s call to remake a wing of high-school on German lines. Vocational training for the high-tech jobs of the future.

C.K. McClatchy High School senior Anthony Beanes, 18, works on a computer animation project in a three-dimensional animation class in Sacramento, Calif., part of the school's vocational education program. (AP)

C.K. McClatchy High School senior Anthony Beanes, 18, works on a computer animation project in a three-dimensional animation class in Sacramento, Calif., part of the school’s vocational education program. (AP)

Jobs and education got a lot of attention in the President’s State of the Union address the other night.  Education, starting pre-K.  Jobs and education planted right in high school.

German-style, said the president.  Schools and corporations working together to put high school grads on a track straight into a job.  And not old-fashioned “vocational education” – wood shop, mechanics, hair dressing.  The call here is for high tech

This hour, On Point:  high schools, educating to a job.  Plus we’ll look at the President’s “College Scorecard,” sizing up your “bang for the buck” in higher ed.

-Tom Ashbrook


Alyson Klein, reporter for Education Week.

Stanley Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship & corporate affairs for IBM and president of IBM’s foundation. He helped develop New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH).

Simon Field, senior analyst in the Education and Training Policy Division at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Closing Segment on the White House’s College Scorecard

Kevin Kiley, reported for Inside Higher Ed. (@kkiley)

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN “Rewarding high schools for high-tech curriculum doesn’t mean every student will head to college. Obama mentioned “those German kids” who come up through schools that make sure they’ve got the skills for a job by the time they graduate. He pointed to P-Tech in Brooklyn, where graduates leave with a high school diploma and associate’s degree in a high-tech field.”

Education Week “Obama also wants to see Career and Technical education programs—which were due for an update last year reauthorization—revamped to put more emphasis on preparing students for post-secondary education and the workforce. The administration put forward a blueprint for updating the program last year that called for making a portion of the funding competitive, which generally jibes with the broad proposal in the speech.”

The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY) “The caller wanted to know about Henning’s job in Louisville and the on-the-job apprenticeship training program he went through. After five years with the company and 8,000 hours of experience under a journeyman machinist, Henning now oversees his own apprentices. Then the caller invited him to the State of the Union address as a guest of the First Lady.”

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  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    I would like to see 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,… year degrees with any mix of courses you wanted. Make your world the way you want it to be, after all it is your nickel.


    Free thinking polymath wanted to change the world.

    Also, just noting that libraries often offer free online courses.

  • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

    What would happen if we made children learn the theory of walking and pass a written test before they were ever allowed to take a first step?  What if we never allowed the toddler to fall down? Would this improve the ability to walk? I don’t think so.  We need apprenticeship, kids used to have paper routes, raise chickens, or some other activity that models economic cause and effect. I made wood crafts in junior achievement.  Book smarts doesn’t necessarily prepare people for work.  Learning to work as a team, and to learn from each other is a skill that comes for apprenticeship.  Schools need more activity, maybe this could be a start.  Why not have students prepare the meal, clean the school, study the budget, and serve the community as part of their education.  This is not to exploit the student, it is to share the skills necessary to live.  

    • BHA_in_Vermont

       ” We need apprenticeship, kids used to have paper routes,..”

      Ain’t it the truth. When I moved into my neighborhood over 20 years ago, the stack of morning papers was dropped on the corner opposite my house. Two sisters up the road delivered them unfailingly. When they graduated high school and moved on to college, the job was taken over by 3 brothers. After some time, the paper decided the people delivering had to drive to a location to pick up the papers. Job for neighborhood kids – down the toilet.

      Delivery since has been spotty. I NEVER had to call for a missing paper when the neighborhood kids were delivering. They made sure they had a backup when the family went on vacation. But now it is a “motor route” even though the houses are 50 feet apart and they have trouble keeping people on a route. Must say though that the current guy, on the route for 3 years, has been great.

    • http://twitter.com/xacerb8 Dana Ortegón

      AGREED, Yar!
       My kids attend Sudbury Valley School (www.sudval.org). Here, they learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it. They assume total responsibility for their own education. There are 16 year olds here who pay the $7k/year tuition by working full-time in addition to attending school. There is no need to test students for their aptitudes. They do what they love and that gives them the motivation to do whatever it takes to achieve “success.” And they get to define “success” for themselves. By the time they graduate, they have a slew of real-world skills that allow them to pursue fulfilling lives whether those lives include a college degree, a career in the arts, owning their own business, or whatever they can dream up.

      Obama keeps trying to put band-aids on a hemorrhage. The educational system in the U.S. was designed to provide compliant workers after the Industrial Revolution. That’s why we can’t compete anymore. Our educational system is killing the motivation, creativity, and critical thinking that today’s world demands.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Changing the focus of schools to one where students learn skills for increasingly technological and even not so technological jobs that are out there is a better model than the “one size fits all” (everyone must go to a four year college) that currently dominates.  Over the next 10-20 years, a lot of the baby boomers who work in trades (manufacturing, construction, etc.) will be retiring and will need to be replaced.  60 Minutes and other sources have done stories on the number of jobs that are out there that companies can’t fill because of a skill gap.  We aren’t going to out compete China by paying lower wages.  We will out compete them by having a more skilled workforce.  And it doesn’t even mean that we need to spend more money.  We just have to spend our educational money more efficiently and effectively.

  • Coastghost

    IF Obama’s sudden advocacy of vocational training marks a distinct and lasting departure from his prior insistence upon making college “available and affordable to all”: then I’m all for it.
    I reserve the right to be surprised, however, should he revert to his previous position: I can already hear voices and screams that a “two-tier” approach (academic/professional track “education” & vocational/technical “training”) is unacceptably anti-democratic and will help lock in social roles to match the economic roles such a division might imply or dictate.
    Yet again do I say that having over 40% of post-secondary students enrolled in some kind of remedial program (Drew in GA: see, even I can learn!) is a clear clear sign that not all of us can benefit from a college education. Also again: I would push the logic behind Obama’s new concession to pragmatism or reality and urge the immediate dismantling of every college- and university-administered remediation program in the country. Post-secondary remediation and the cure it ostensibly affords is itself the clear clear sign of the manifest failures pandemic to US public education.

    • Ray in VT

      The President has actually been making references to education or training beyond high school that might include vocational training for some time.  He has often talked about making college affordable to all who want to go that route, but he’s certainly acknowledged that for many people and many jobs that is not the best route.

      • Coastghost

        As I write, NPR’s Scott Horsley just featured tape of Obama calling for poor kids having good schools, so they can go on to college.

        I smell a disconnect.

        • adks12020

          You’re making a disconnect. Giving kids the opportunity to attend good schools if they choose to do so and giving kids the opportunity to attend vocational schools are not opposing ideas. They work in conjunction with each other by giving everyone an option.

        • Ray in VT

          I don’t, given the various statements that the President has made over time, such as this one from September of 2011:

          “Not only do you have to graduate from high school, but you’re going to
          have to continue education after you leave. You have to not only
          graduate, but you’ve got to keep going after you graduate. That might
          mean, for many of you, a four-year university. I was just talking to
          Donae, and she wants to be an architect, and she’s interning with a
          architectural firm, and she’s already got her sights set on what school
          she wants to go to. But it might, for some other folks, be a community
          college, or professional credentialing or training. But the fact of the
          matter is, is that more than 60 percent of the jobs in the next decade
          will require more than a high school diploma — more than 60 percent.
          That’s the world you’re walking into.”

          or from the State of the Union back in 2009:

          “Tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of
          higher education or career training. This can be community college or a
          four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But
          whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a
          high school diploma.”

        • jefe68

          No you’re looking for anything to smear any good idea that comes from President Obama or anyone not in your political camp.

          • Coastghost

            I invite you to re-read the first sentence in my first post of the day.

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      “available and affordable to all”
      IS NOT
      “all must go”

      The idea is for those who WANT to go to college and would likely do well there to be ABLE to go and not held back by the cost, which is frequently excessive.

      Not everyone is college material. If the options are limited to:
      - Spend many, many tens of thousands of dollars to go to college, barely pass and not be able to find a job since you are competing with those at the top of the class.
      - Skip college and work for minimum wage the rest of your life

      things are not working well.

  • Jostrenz

    Just to clarify some misconceptions about the German system of apprenticeship: It is not part of the school system, but begins after graduation (either grades 10 or 12). The student then looks for a company which trains apprentices in his or her field of interest. Anything from carpenting to electronics. The company and the apprentice then sign an (employment) contract normally for the duration of 3 to 3 and a half years. During this time the apprentice receives practical training within the company and theoretical training (1 day a week) in a specialized vocational school. During this time the apprentice is paid on average 900 $ along with the normal benefits of any other “normal” employee like health insurance, paid vacation etc.. At the end there is a theoretical and practical exam. On average 6.5% of the workforce are apprentices. Under normal circumstances the company then continues to employ the former apprentice.

    It works. 

    • newt

       Thanks for explaining this.  I knew they had a good system, but as you explain, it is even better than I thought.

  • AC

    but what about ‘out-of-schoolers’ who are unemployed because their jobs are now obsolete? there’s going to be a lot soon with the post office slowly disappearing. we have to have some returning-older-student school….(i’ve used ‘re-education’ in the past & someone reminded me how synonymous that word is with historically bad ideas….)

    • http://twitter.com/Dragonsong73 Eric R. Duncan

      Sadly, adult second career education does not seem to be a high priority. it really should if we want to see some of the infrastructure changes the president wants to achieve such as a broadening of energy generation sources. 

      • Coastghost

        “Adult second career education”: what might that consist of? Programs lasting entire quarters, semesters, or years?

        • http://twitter.com/Dragonsong73 Eric R. Duncan

          I don’t know to be honest. Yet to not have a plan in place to train the existing work force to transition to new job opportunities does not seem like a way to give folks a skill set that might better align with new  job opportunities.

          I would imagine it would depend on what skillsets or processes you are training for.  

          • Coastghost

            I asked because I participated in three such programs over the years. One was supplied by my employer once I had been hired (editorial training, c. two weeks’ worth over five years), one was offered by my prospective employer just prior to my beginning work (software and procedure training, one week), and one I pursued on my own to secure employment (c. two weeks total time of TV studio instruction offered by the local cable franchise).

  • adks12020

    I have a bachelors degree and a masters degree.  If more of these vocational programs existed when I was considering college I most definitely would have looked into them rather than college. I’d probably be earning more money and feel more satisfied with my job.

    • Ray in VT

      I had a number of friends when I was in college who were pushed to go by their parents, even though it was not where they wanted to be, and they didn’t do well.  It’s not a track that’s good for everyone.  I went to college with a specific career goal in mind.  I ended up changing that plan, took another path, got a master’s degree and got the exact job that I wanted.  It cost me, but it boosted my annual income in the field by at least $10k.

      • adks12020

        I liked college and did quite well but I had no specific career goal in mind (and honestly still don’t) so I ended up getting a degree in something I enjoyed: anthropology.  That turned out to be a bad career decision..haha. 

        6 years later I decided to get a masters degree and I just finished. I’m hoping that will help me get a better position soon.  I can’t help but feel I would be in a better position had the opportunity to work towards a hands on job with specific skills been available. 

        • Coastghost

          If you care to reveal: did you earn your master’s in anthropology, too?

          • adks12020

            Haha, nope.  I learned my lesson there. I’ve been a paralegal at a corporate law firm for the past 5 1/2 years so I got a masters degree in law with a focus in financial services and banking law. That should help me build on what I already know. I’m applying ofr positions in financial aid offices at the local colleges (there are 6 with 15 miles of me), compliance and commercial lending positions at banks, and legal departments at local manufacturers. Fingers crossed.

        • Ray in VT

          Yeah, sometimes pursuing a degree in an area of interest isn’t a great career move.  I started out as a history/secondary education double major.  I wanted to teach high school history, but along the line I determined that I wouldn’t deal well with a class of kids who might not care about history, so I settled on another goal.  It required a masters, and it will pay off in the end.  I’ve never had a day in 6 years where I was bummed out to be at work.

          I certainly do think that career/vocational training has gotten a bad p.r. rap, but some of those careers can be very rewarding, and they are certainly necessary.  One of my main goals coming out of high school was to get as far away from dairy farming as possible.

          Good luck landing something that is rewarding personally and financially.

  • jefe68

    What gets me about the presidents proposal is it his administration cut funding in 2011 for vocational programs in high schools by 20% for 2012. I’m not sure what’s going on here as there is a real disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality of the Presidents past stance on this.

    I’m all for this idea, and there are already a lot of programs in place that do this.


    • Ray in VT

      The numbers don’t exactly match up here, as I couldn’t find a nice 2013 FY summary like the times article linked to for 2012, but it looks like the FY 2012 appropriation actually stayed the same as 2011, and the 2013 request is also the same (bottom of page 6):


      • jefe68

        I had the same problem. So my thought is they wanted to do this and changed their agenda. 
        But the issue is they were seriously thinking of cutting this budget by 20% or more. 

        However, it seems the tide has changed. Or so it would seem.

        • Ray in VT

          Agreed, I think that it is of conern that they were considering cutting funding for something that has been getting emphasized, but at least it didn’t happen.

    • Don_B1

      Remember what happened in the summer of 2011 when Tea/Republicans forced cuts of $1.2 trillion (over 10 years) from discretionary spending. How much hit in 2011, I don’t know, but there had been forced cuts BEFORE the August 2011 Budget Control Act was passed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Patrick-Dwyer-Jr/100002088204784 James Patrick Dwyer Jr.

    It’s about time.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    Why has it taken this long for this nation’s leaders to wake up to the fact that voc tech benefits kids who are not destined for college and society as well in so many ways?

    It makes me wonder where the education of our leaders failed?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/E63DVDJVMZCK5KCWORKEZFL7QA John Richards

      What makes you think that voc tech schools benefit kids? I hate to say this, but voc tech education is obsolesce for most students, especially for those who have no interests of being in vocational programs. 

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        So everyone in high school should be prepared for going on to college?!!!

        Neither does one size does not fit all, nor are all voch tech systems exemplary!

        It is time to systematically renovate education and I’m not talking about anything like that trainwreck of an unfunded mandate called no child left behind which was the brainchild of our village-idiot-in-chief.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1453092741 Miriam Pickens

    It’s a great idea…but it should be paired with three things. 
    1. Vocational assessments need to be beefed up in middle and high school so the young people have a better idea of where they’re headed.
    2. It needs to be a demanding program so the training is high quality and, very important: the program has clout.  This shouldn’t be a fallback for the student who isn’t succeeding, but a pathway to excellent preparedness for a career. 
    3. Many could use this as a stepping stone …. say…to get an LPN, and eventually go to university for an RN.

  • northeaster17

    Vocational training should not be just for kids. Our aging worker population along with current economic shifts shows the need for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/irvwestyouthadvocate Irv West

    I am setting up a program at a local rural high school, that will provide vocational training in agriculture. If a student does not envision a future (by their standards), they will not work toward one and instead will party and drug out… living in the moment.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    It is the right idea – and people will cheer for it while at the same time not be willing to fund even what we currently have. There’s the disconnect.

  • http://www.facebook.com/irvwestyouthadvocate Irv West

    Don’t forget one of your recent previous shows in which we learned that in Finland they hold a meeting with their students to plan for the student to either continue acedemically or entering a vocational program.

  • LizannPeyton

    For years I’ve thought that – whether they’re going to college, or straight to work after graduation – teenagers need to spend part of their school week out of the classroom, not sitting still, and feeling that they’re doing something real in the world.  So let’s combine workforce training with a “not sit still” high school model for everyone.  Also – remember that in small states, many great math/science/technology jobs are in small entrepreneurial start-ups that can’t succeed if they don’t have high-speed internet access outside of the largest cities – yet some communities just 5-10 miles from Dartmouth College  towns are still on dial-up.

  • http://twitter.com/Mithrandir48 Jeff A

    Why don’t we have an education system after high school that allows you to learn in-demand, high-tech skills within 6 months? There is a huge need for that type of education program to fill the skills gap while allowing mid-career professionals to gain those skills in a short period of time, plus you’re only paying for 6 months of school.  That type of education system could be much more responsive, working with employers and turning out employees who would able to work in a very rapid amount of time.  The old college system is broken for the large majority of workers, those with bachelor degrees either gain skills that are useless in the job market or they end up spending 2 out of their 4 years simply trying to complete liberal education requirements.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    Rubio’s parroting of Romney’s “start a business” as the proper course to the middle class was pathetic.

    1. Starting a business takes money
    2. 34% fail in the first 2 years, 56% fail in the first 4. 
    3. Not everyone is cut out to run a business.

    So what is WRONG with giving kids an education that can lead to a job??

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    Here’s an idea – let kids GED for their high school diploma at any age. But let them stay in school until 18 to focus on vocational or college credit courses, instead of years and years of rehashing what they already know in “required” courses.

  • AC

    i can’t remember where I was just discussing this, but long ago, didn’t private industries train a lot on their own dime when they needed workers? Like Raytheon…..? Why can’t private industry step up and invest a little here?

    • BHA_in_Vermont

      Hits the bottom line, investor return and therefore executive compensation. What matters is “this quarter’s profit”

    • adks12020

      They most certainly did.  My father worked at a very large corporation in HR for a long time. He always used to say the degree you get isn’t as important as peeople think because when he was doing the hiring it wasn’t. They found smart people they liked and they trained them. Too bad that’s not the case anymore. Corporations want individuals to spend tens of thousands to get the qualifications first or they won’t hire you.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

      That’s how it used to be – now they want people experienced way beyond the job descriptions at low wages – and then scream they need H1B’s when they can’t get highly experienced people at trainee wages.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    It would be nice if IBM was as committed to continuing education for the people that have worked for them for decades. For that group, it is “figure it out yourself”. It wasn’t always that way. 

  • Melanie Wilson

    This isn’t a new idea, and in fact many high schools are already experimenting with getting students out of the classroom and into the community as part of customized learning programs. And all high school systems (or most) have voc-tech schools attached.

  • jothamburrello

    Listeners should check out the College Acceleration Network,
    an Indiana group that helped develop a public / private partnership in Northern
    Indiana to further develop College, Career and Workforce readiness for high school
    students. And the emphasis on technology training is getting the lip service,
    but dual credit partnerships with colleges and college readiness at
    historically low achieving schools is expanding rapidly. Dr. Eric Ban’s book,
    College Acceleration details Crown Point high school’s transformation into a College
    First institution. 

  • Sheila Fay

    I grew up and worked in Germany where students can choose at 16 whether to go onto academic type schools or more business/technical training.  It was really clear to me that the students who went on to the business/technical training came out much more prepared to work in the world, and were happy to be working.  For years I’ve been wondering why we don’t have something like this here in this country.  Not everyone wants to go to college — and we NEED people with ALL kinds of skills!  Plus, happier people do better in their jobs.  We need to respect and honor all the different skills that make a society work!

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.lovellinglese Laura Lovell Inglese

     My 46-years-old husband started his electrical apprenticeship
    when he was 17. Almost 30 years later, he still loves his job.
    He makes a very good living, is a responsible citizen, and
    thoughtful person. I am a teacher and have spent most of my
    years teaching 6th grade math, but have also tutored both
    younger and older students. We do not serve our children well when the only
    path we value is the one of the scholar. In Massachusetss, and I suspectin many other parts of the country, that is exactly what we have been doing. A person can be smart, responsible, and a contributor to societywithout being scholarly. All students, not just the ones with scholarly
    tendencies/preferences deserve a great education! And, society needs their talents and knowledge as well! Thanks for diving into this topic Tom! Laura in Andover

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

      I skipped my first day in vocational college interviewing for an apprenticeship position. They did not offer me what I wanted, so I went on to complete my 2 year degree in electronics. Got hired at Bells Labs (N. Andover) and settled into a productive career.

  • stephenreal

    What about economic equality among students?
    How will my small town pay for these changes when the school budget gets voted down year after year?

  • monicaroland

    It’s about time!  I taught struggling readers at the middle school and high school level for 21 years, and for nine years at the community college.  These kids were the kind who *used* to get factory jobs and often didn’t even graduate from high school.  But when I taught, the emphasis shifted to all-academic work and the so-called “college track” diploma, called Regents in New York State.  This same-size-fits-all education was brutal to my students.  They didn’t much like school to begin with, and now the “college track” was being forced down their throats.  Meanwhile, career or vocational education was being devalued and de-emphasized.  So many of my students would just drop out.  YES, let’s bring back vocational and technical education!  My students would thrive under this type of education.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikkimelina.constantinebell Nikki Melina Constantine Bell

    I’m ambivalent about this.  I can see that opportunities need to be expanded for all students, not just those who can afford to attend college, or are interested in attending college.  But I worry that this is a Marxist nightmare.  We are educating children not to be better human beings – compassionate, curious, creative, expressive – but to be better workers, customized to our job needs.  To be mere instruments of production.  To be used as mere means to advance our economic needs.  That’s not the intention, but that could be the eventuality – and that worries me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nikkimelina.constantinebell Nikki Melina Constantine Bell

    I’m ambivalent about this.  I can see that opportunities need to be expanded for all students, not just those who can afford to attend college, or are interested in attending college.  But I worry that this is a Marxist nightmare.  We are educating children not to be better human beings – compassionate, curious, creative, expressive – but to be better workers, customized to our job needs.  To be mere instruments of production.  To be used as mere means to advance our economic needs.  That’s not the intention, but that could be the eventuality – and that worries me.

    • Coastghost

      Yet: formal education of whatever caliber does NOT preclude developing interests and acquiring skills outside of education/training or employment.

  • Benjamin Moses

    Why aren’t there any teachers on the panel?

  • AC

    i don’t think engineering falls into this category. out of the 50 of us in engineering, only 12 of us graduated – it’s a heck of a work-load for college alone, and you have to have your masters now as well…..
    and you basically have to be willing to continuously learn and study through-out your career – it’s an awesome career, but you have to want to work your mind, you’ll never stop studying…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    The education thing is key, but it won’t address the real issue – too many people chasing after too few jobs. Technology has replaced so many low end workers there is just nowhere for  people just entering the workforce to get a job.

  • Guest

    In Connecticut we have a vocational high school system run by the state. There are some issue with student who are not invested in the education at a young age. As a teacher in this system I like the idea of a 6 year program. I would have the students choose their trade track at the end of 10th grade after sampling of the trades offered by the school.

  • sickofthechit

    This IBM’er doesn’t seem to really grasp the kind of education our trade schools used to give.  A machinists has to have math skill that rival some engineers.  I think he needs to listen a lot more closely to what the Europeans are doing.  My nieces and nephews in Switzerland were tested in early middle school to put them on the path that most closely tracks their aptitude and interest.  My only hesitancy is whether any have the opportunity to diverge later on to the other path if they can prove themselves worthy. charles a. bowsher

  • http://twitter.com/alison_l_fraser Alison L. Fraser

    Massachusetts has one of the best models for High School Career Vocational Technical Education.  Not only is the dropout rate for these regional schools less than 1%, but many of the schools offer Advanced Placement courses, CVTE students are graduating with licenses and certifications that demonstrate their skills. In the Bay State, where we’ve had voc-tech schools for over 100 years, our students are passing the MCAS exit exam at higher rates than conventional high schools. Academic concepts in context are amazing.  A lot of info plus two of my white papers on CVTE success at http://pioneerinstitute.org/?s=vocational

  • newt

    As a High School teacher, I was constantly hearing students complain about the one-size-fits-all, college prep curriculum.  The non-college-interested kids hated it, and the college-interested kids hated it because they were in classes with students who did not want to be there, were bored, distracted, and ruined it for the others.

    I have been told by vocational teachers that students were often discouraged by guidance departments from taking voc programs, because the schools had to pay extra to place students in them.

    By age 16 or so, a great many students are eager to buckle down and  learn how to earn money in the real world studying work that interests them.  As opposed to being forced to write research papers on Jane Austen (wonderful as this might be for those who like it).

    For students who want to switch back to  liberal arts or advanced science curricula later in life, we have Community Colleges to support them, as they did me.

  • http://twitter.com/twosidesormore twosidesormore

    I went to one of these technical high schools while living in Italy and I ended up with a PhD from an american university and a postdoc at Harvard…

    I don’t feel that kind of education limited me in any way, professionally or in my analytical skills. It made me actually more appreciative of the connections between theory and practice. I do think US kids waste too much time in nonsense classes during high school and some of their time at the University (B.S. level). The US system really shines in the advanced degrees area, I think.

    • glenninboston

      Anecdotal information.

      My partner is from Italy, and she went to a lyceum (pre-college), went on to become an MD. While what you say is likely true, unless you have information to the contrary, it’s more likely you are the exception and not the rule. (though my opinion is also based on anecdotal information – the experience of my partner and her take on it)

  • OnpointListener

    Are waivers given to engineers etc for standard teacher certificate requirements?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    “the right training” is largely nonsense – vanilla training does not work for highly specific positions, which describes most jobs in the workplace these days.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/N6LWKIX75IUO2OIH63N46JSRAA Barb

    I grew up thinking i was not cut out for college. I remember hearing about “tracking” while in grade school and making the connection,whether correct or not, that it pertained to me. I feel i was tracked. I feel that children should be encouraged to aspire to higher education from the beginning of grade school no matter who they are. Encouragement means sooo much to a child. This is a very dear to my heart issue. It still stings. I did eventually go to a four year college to attain a bachelors. thanks

    • glenninboston

      I couldn’t agree more. 

      I applaud the goals of this type of program, but worry about the implementation. I had a very similar experience to you – I was actually tracked lower. Not originally. After testing in the 3rd grade I was tracked in the higher of two tracks. Three days later I was switched with another student. It’s only later in life that I realize that her parents probably raised hell, and I was the easy victim (and also, admittedly, the *last one in*). Regardless, I was lucky – my family could afford to send me to a great private high school that allowed me to balance the table so to speak. 

      It’s time we started expecting more from all of our students, not less, and certainly not selectively less.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        I have similar thoughts. Yes, it’s a brutal job market out there and kids could be steered to good jobs with vo-tec training. Not everyone needs to go to college.

        OTOH, this could amount to further freezing our class system, with the lower-middle kids sent one way and the romney-type kids sent to college. Bad bad bad.

        When I grew up  in the 60s and 70s the plan was you went to college to explore the great ideas and eventually settled on a career. The idea that you are focused on a job from day one is quite a comedown for our kids. I understand that after 30 years of class warfare it may be necessary, but it’s sad.

        Hey, here’s another ed project. How about emergency science training for the disadvantaged who think the earth is 6,000 years old or that pumping CO2 into the atmosphere won’t warm the climate or that evolution is a hoax? These unfortunates really need help.

  • Tom Sabotta

    I think our educational system is failing to develop in students the link between what they’re learning in school and what they will be doing to make a living as adults. I worked in Iowa Community Colleges for 15 years and S.T.E.M. is a fine fine program. I ran a GED school in the Iowa Prison system and people must have the math, reading and writing skills needed to continue to learn. I’ve taught everything from first grade to graduate school and the link is important at all levels. Students need to understand what real people do while they’re earning a living. And teachers need to know how make classroom learning relate to what those real people do. This will be difficult for teachers who never leave the classroom.

  • Chris Patton

    In Germany, the educational track for engineers, designers, architects and related professionals, goes through an apprenticeship program in various construction trades in the high school years that approximates a vocational program.  From there, students can either pursue a journeyman program in that trade, or go to university to pursue a career in engineering, etc.  I have had the opportunity to work with German engineers on a number of occasions, and they are by and large much more capable and competent than Americans.  Vocational components in high school would be a good thing for a wide range of students, not just “unconventional learners” etc. Understanding the methods and materials side of the game is important to educating our engineers, entrepreneurs, inventors, etc. I really believe that the lack of opportunities in that department is a big reason why America is not producing the volume and quality of inventors and engineers that it once did.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=20405667 Arthur Laughlin

    It is time to make education effective. We have a glut graduates with the wrong degrees ad supplus of jobs with no one with skills and training. Undergraduate education has been another example of run away government funded capitalism. A Ripoff !

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    the German model requires a lot of Federal spending and commitment. i don’t see it here in the US, at least not any time soon as long as the Republicans control the House. Many people in Congress believes in the Darwinian approach, the survival of the fittest. Ironically, these lunatics despise Darwin and evolution.

  • Trudie

    what is the link for the college scorecard?

  • glenninboston

    I’m somewhat ambivalent on this (even if I applaud its end-goal). 

    I believe that HS should hold a high standard for all, giving people a broad based knowledge that will support them well for their entire life-times regardless of their career.

    The very real risk in this country is that this type of tracking will only server to further increase the disparity of wealth – giving access to excellent *intellectual* (and well funded) education to those who are already privileged, while throwing the already underprivileged into poorly funded vocational programs. 

    Not to mention the very real concern that someone (anyone) under 18 can hardly be expected to be prepared to make decisions that have ramifications for the rest of their lives. I remember well my ‘guidance counselor’ in high school discouraging me from taking AP and honors courses (I wasn’t the brightest bulb, still not…). Fortunately, I was a stubborn arse, and ignored her – but the pressure was very strong and very real. Not every teenager will be as stubborn as I.

    But I agree work-apprenticeship (like they have in Germany) is a win-win for employers and students (cheaper labor and on-the-job learning). Great idea. This should go forward regardless of any changes to the educational system.

    As a side, frankly, I’d be curious how many people who are advocating for this change to the high school system have children who are in/would be in vocational school?

  • Rokdok

    this is giving false hope to our children.  My son and many of his friends have graduated two years ago from college with degrees in Physics and chemical engineering and have yet to find jobs other than at McDonalds or Walmart.  Are these wrong degrees. They are Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).  What you are really saying is where are the factory workers. Surely these young men are trainable.  They have spent the last  16 years getting trained.

  • geraldfnord

    I’ve taught undergraduates at a near-Ivy school, and I got the distinct impression that some of them were there because it were expected of someone in their social class that they go to as ‘good’ a school as they could manage.  These people seemed anti-interested in what were being taught, didn’t try hard to conceal when they cheated, and generally wasted my time and theirs.  (Other students, who cared, were joys—and came to office hours, as opposed to the others who needed office hours _more_.)

    I asked one of them once why he was like this, and he said, ‘Engineering makes me take Physics, I don’t care about it, and as long as I pass I can get my degree and still make the same amount of money.’  I didn’t even bother asking him if anything else might be worth his while:  he obviously only cared about his eventual salary, and I think it a symptom of the real problem:  we don’t love learning.  We know enough to _say_ we do, but it doesn’t really bring particular status (except negative attention for the Sin of Being Interested in Things Other People Despise)—and look at the popularity of the Nerdstrel Show called “The Big Bang Theory”.

    As for vocational training:  we need smart people on shop floors, so college is doubly not good for some people—we might get a mediocre engineer where we could have had a woman who was bright enough to improve the manufacturing process where she worked.

    • Sylvia Guerra

      “I think it is a symptom of the real problem: we don’t love learning.” 

  • http://twitter.com/alison_l_fraser Alison L. Fraser

    In MA, voc-tech teachers need a certain number of years in the field, as well as class work to get their certification as CTE teachers.

  • lydiahubbell

    Yes for better training for high-schoolers, no for universal preschool for 4 year olds. 

    I think parents/students should not be forced into a track at age 12…like that lady said happened in Italy, but I think what I  have heard about the plan for here sounds pretty good so far.

    I think anyone should be able to graduate from high school, marry, buy a (cheap, starter) house and start a family and people should stay above poverty level with ONE parent in a two-parent household being gainfully employed. Every wife and mother who wants to stay home and raise her own children should be able to. On the other hand, every wife and mother who wants a career should be able to have that, too. 

    Universal preschool is bad and a POOR investment–put that money into preparing the older children for careers.

    I was able to stay home with my children and I have 2 teenagers who are honor students and never spent a day in preschool. They went to school already reading and were classified as academically gifted. That was a result of nature AND nurture. I taught my children to read and to love learning before they went to school, from birth, in fact. Any mother who wants to can do the same. 

    Mothers who want to work should not have free preschool/babysitting for their 4 year olds paid for with taxpayer dollars.

    My first thoughts about the preschool issue that I put on facebook:
    The four year old children of the United States do not need preschools, they need two-parent households. They don’t need “schoolteachers”, they need mothers. They don’t need “classmates”, they need friends and family in their neighborhoods and their churches. They don’t need “hot” meals of highly processed foods served in school cafeterias, they need home-cooked meals served at the family table. 
    Rather than “schooling” the 4 year olds, why don’t we look towards strengthening the families? I would rather see us schooling boys to be successful husbands and fathers (leaders, providers, protectors) and putting Home Economics back in school to help the girls be well prepared to be wives and mothers. 
    We need to be reminded that “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Many of the problems in society would be greatly diminished if more women recognized that there is no more important occupation than that of “Home Maker.” The “Home Makers” are the “Nation Builders”.

    Children need consistency. If they are going to have a “surrogate” parent, they need to have the same one throughout childhood. Winston Churchill would not have turned out the way he did if he had a different nanny every year of his childhood. 

    Mothers raising their own children with support of friends and family as needed should be seen as the ideal, the standard. These days women who want to be full-time homemakers are considered as wanting to live an “alternative lifestyle.” Not good.

    As far as college goes…I have always felt that it is unnecessary unless a college degree is required for a specific career. Anyone can educate themselves as well as any Liberal Arts college, and it is even easier with the resources available for free on the internet.

    I LOVE the idea of young people being able to start careers without being saddled with many tens of thousands of dollars in debt from college loans. 

    • vtworkingmom

      Very narrow minded view of universal preschool.  You are assuming that every mother out there is a “good” parent and/or married.  Good for you that your kids turned out so great, you must be one of the “good” ones.  There are a lot of children in my kids schools who are much better off in preschool than their homes.  And churches are not the safest place either, I might add.

    • hennorama

      lydiahubbell – how would you address the current realities?  Without disputing the merits of what you say, which are numerous, you are describing the 1950s not the 2010s.

      Without either a magic wand or a time machine, how does one change the life of a child who is growing up without the benefit of both parents in the household?  The present reality of the lives of these children and their parents must be considered and addressed.  Wistfully dreaming of the past won’t change the present.

      Winston Churchill was born in 1874 and grew up well over a CENTURY ago.  Hardly an apt example.

      According to U.S. Census Bureau data (Table C2. Household Relationship And Living Arrangements Of Children Under 18 Years, By Age And Sex: 2012)


      68% of those under age 18 live with both parents
      24% of those under age 18 live with the mother only
      4% of those under age 18 live with the father only
      4% of those under age 18 live with neither parent

      Of those living with neither parent, more than 81% live with a grandparent or other relative.  This means that more than 99% of those under age 18 live with a parent or other relative.

      The US is unlikely to return to either the economic circumstances or family and household arrangements of the 1950s.  We need to address the present, regardless of one’s vision of the past.

      • vtworkingmom

         well said!

        • hennorama

          vtworkingmom – TY for your kind words. Based on your moniker, one presumes you have some perspective on work/life balance and the various pressures and considerations involved. TY again.

    • JGC

      Lydia, if only you had been there to tell Jenny Churchill to get back home, fire the nanny and raise little Winston,  history may have definitely taken a different track!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BZGGPVGHGN624PP43Z66FMZXK4 Robert


    I’m a long-time listener and tried to be a 1st time caller on the recently completed, vocational training discussion, but couldn’t get through. 

    I’m a retired career counselor who spent a lot of time counseling undergrads and college students, and alumni including those from HBS.  I’m the author of the “Harvard Business School Guide for Finding Your Next Job” (HBSP, 2000).

    First, let me compliment you on both programs on Tuesday. The NRA discussion was great, and I’d just finished “Going Clear” so really appreciated Lawrence Wright’s observations. Fabulous programs!

    On today’s discussion, I hoped to call to encourage others who know more about current voke ed schools to follow-up my call because the many changes in voke ed since I was in high school have been great.  For example, many kids from voke schools now do go to college. My 1st cousin is a retired long-term academic teacher at Diman Voke, in Fall River so I know a little bit but wanted to your audience to hear oed grads, and some grads themselves.

    My two sons and two stepsons are graduates of Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and all four got a great education.  But when my oldest son and stepson were in 8th grade and we attended the panel discussion on high school options, I was very impressed by the speaker representing Minuteman Voke in Lexington who was very dynamic, talking about left-brain vs. right-brain learning, etc.  Unfortunately, three years later when my youngest son was in 8th grade, the very dull representative of Minuteman on that year’s panel was a classic example of the prejudices many people have about voke ed.  Oh well…

    Please consider a follow-up program on the same topic where some good representatives of current voke school training can at least add their thoughts to the discussion, perhaps adding some parents of successful voke school grads, and also some successful grads.

    I apologize for any anfd all typos – I’m very dependent on spell checkers!

    Keep up the great work on “On Point.”

    Bob Gardella

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/E63DVDJVMZCK5KCWORKEZFL7QA John Richards

    I went to community college several years ago. I can tell you when I was in a program for vocational education in computer programming, I was miserable. It was something I didn’t want to do for a living and yet, I had no interests in any vocational certificate program. I was mostly a liberal arts geek. So at that time, I dropped out of community college for a while because the institution I was belonging to didn’t had a liberal arts program. I wasn’t until a year or two later that I return back to school when the college did actually started a liberal education department, and therefore I was one of the first students to signed up for the program. It was a challenge at first, but I’d actually enjoyed it.

    To anyone thinks vocational education is the way to go in America, I say buyer beware. My experience in being such program for a vocational certificate at junior college didn’t match my needs in life. And yet, I probably wasn’t the only one out there that shared this type of depressing experience. The government should not be in the business of telling students after high school to go into a vocational institution just because they aren’t college ready, and that business need specialized employers with a green stamp certificate on their resume. We’re a nation that is supposedly cherishing individual freedom and rights, not corporations, rich hacks, and heartless bureaucrats preaching eugenics under the law. Sorry folks. Vocational education is a bygone era and that the President is on the wrong side of history when it comes to educational policies for the country.

  • Cabanator

    I don’t like the idea that this new “vocational” model is being compared to the traditional US model as an either/or proposition. Having studied both in the US and abroad, I agree with many of the callers who have pointed out that the US does a great job of providing a good all-around education that doesn’t pigeon- hole students into one particular career. On the other hand, I think we take the “learning for learning’s sake” idea too far. I went to a great public high school in greater Boston that taught me all the academic skills I needed–writing, math, critical thinking, analytic skills, etc. By age 18, after 13 years of education, I feel I was adequately prepared as a “thinker.” At no point during high school did I think much about what sort of career I might be interested in pursuing. I then attended an expensive, prestigious liberal arts college, where I took more classes designed to teach me how to think. I chose my major based on what interested me, not on what my idea of a future career might be. 

    When I studied abroad, I had an incredibly difficult time explaining the concept of liberal arts to my fellow students. The idea that I was spending exorbitant amounts of money to go to school for four years without even knowing which career path I was pursuing made absolutely no sense to them, and I started questioning whether it made any sense to me. Not surprisingly, after graduation, I found several of my peers wondering, what now? None of us really had any idea of how to transition our purely academic careers into the “real world.” 

    I don’t think we need to track students towards vocational or academic paths, or decide at an early age what our life’s career will be. What we should be doing is trying to merge the academic and work worlds a bit more so that students are thinking early on about how the skills they learn in school will apply to a future career. I like the idea of projects that take on challenges similar to what you might experience in the business world–designing and marketing a particular product, for example. That doesn’t pigeon-hole students towards marketing; it simply allows them to apply creativity and critical thinking to a real-world situation. In the process, those students who love that particular project might start thinking about careers that would suit them. Many students lose interest in academics because it seems too theoretical and disconnected from the “real world.” Working closer with companies to design real-world projects and provide internship opportunities for students will allow them to start thinking earlier about how the skills they learn in school will apply to their future careers. It will also help them start to think about which types of careers might be right for them, and how they might plan their academic futures accordingly. 

    • hennorama

      Cabanator – your posts points out that post-secondary students must take on an enormous share of the risks of time, money, and opportunity costs of post-secondary education and training, with no guarantee of future employment, or of pay high enough to justify the time out of the work force and the costs of school.

      Right now, 2 of every 3 HS grads go on to to attend college right away, even in this era of rising costs and questionable benefits.

      The government gets involved in sharing the costs, with grants, loans, tax credits, etc., but business doesn’t share much of the load.  Business needs to be a better partner in this endeavor.  They are only too happy to get employees that they didn’t have to pay to train, and seem to act only when there is a lack of graduates who have the skills they need.

      It would seem that there are many possible routes to lower student costs of higher education:
      - 3 years to get a degree by getting college credits in HS and a heavier course load in college

      - combining free/low cost online courses with on-campus study

      - private/public partnership with businesses and schools working together to tailor course work to skills needed by employers

      The last point is what Pres. Obama is discussing now.  The other two points also have considerable merit and should not be overlooked.

  • no8ing

    Hi Tom -

    When you run a show on President Obama’s Preschool initiative I recommend that you include the point of view of pre-k researcher Mable Kinzie:  http://news.virginia.edu/content/uva-researchers-will-test-effectiveness-pre-k-math-science-curricula


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7JP4YPSZQZSDOVCTNARQYS6PPE SteveM

    How about a concerned effort to include Girls/Women in math and engineering fields? I know there is a dramatic drop off of interest and carrer tracking in the engineering fields by females in the highschool years. With more women graduating college these days, we could get a lot of bang for the buck by channeling them into engineering and math.

  • brettearle

    This system sounds unbelievably visionary and sophisticated.

    Two questions:

    Is it, indeed, LITERALLY too good to be true?

    And, two, despite the antediluvian mess that our job market slots relative to our training programs are in, are there any Creative Thinkers–in addition to, say, Robert Reich–who can advance such Ideas forward?

    Or is it, indeed, what I think:

    –Intractable thinking due to the Fear of Change
       (systemic politics; dysfunctional denial, etc.)

    –Refusing to believe that other systems can think things
       through better and therefore ignoring new ideas due

       basic insecurity

       fear of revealing a whole array of other problems that
       might ordinarily be hidden from view

    • hennorama

      brettearle – TY for your response. I appreciate your thoughts.

      There are other factors to consider when comparing Germany to the US, besides the ones you mention:

      The US has a far larger population and geographic area
      The US has much greater diversity (cultures, languages, etc.)
      The US has much lower population density
      The US pays a lower overall rate of taxes as a share of GDP

      But it’s difficult to argue with the superior German outcomes as far as employment is concerned.

      Change is rarely easy, especially when it comes to the topic of education. Virtually everyone has a stake in the outcome, and virtually everyone has an opinion on the matter. Getting to agreement will take time, as will implementation. Unfortunately, students don’t have time to wait. We need to act ASAP.

    • hennorama

      brettearle – consider also that greater societal homogeneity tends to lead to greater societal solidarity, making it far simpler to implement policies and practices that promote the greater good of the society as a whole as opposed to the greater good of the individual.

      To a large extent, one can view this as “We’re all in this together” vs. “Every man for himself.”

      • brettearle

        I see your points and they’re good ones.

        But you raise some inevitable ideological conflicts that arise from the contrast of political systems, do you not?

        There are advantages to “together” and advantages to “for himself”, n’est-ce pas?

        It’s the Equality vs Liberty issue in a notable way.

        Would the US be better off, if some of the Red States and Blue States seceded and “formed a more perfect union” of their own?

        Some would think so. 

        • hennorama

          brettearle – Mais bien sûr. Chacun à son goût et vive la différence!

          However, I do not in any way wish for secession. Our differences are strengths, not weaknesses. We gain from a variety of views, even demonstrably wacky views. Contrary beliefs challenge our own views, forcing us to examine, consider and often defend core beliefs. This strengthens them, and leads us to be more active participants in our democracy.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    “In the U.S., neither companies nor government consider worker training to be a key responsibility until there is a crisis.  Companies will train if they experience a lack of properly trained workers to meet demand…..”

    Or they will offshore the work to asia.

  • LoganEcholls

    Wow, the computer lab at my old high school has defintely improved.  I think they were monochrome even in the mid 90s.  Wish they’d had computer animation classes when I was a munchkin! 

  • Sy2502

    I am very much in favor of vocational training. College should provide “higher education”, not just a piece of paper. Standards should be high, and those who don’t have the ability or the will to go through it should learn a useful skill. Our country doesn’t just need doctors and lawyers. We need welders, mechanics, machinists, electricians, etc. We insist in stigmatizing these very useful and perfectly dignified jobs. Why? I find it elitist and simplistic.

  • hennorama

    “This comment was flagged for review.”  What?  Seriously?  How could any part of my post about the German system of Dual Vocational Training possibly be considered to be in any way controversial or offensive?
    C’mon moderator … even the NFL replacement refs were faster than this.  Make a decision already, then put my post back up.

    • Steve__T

       Agreed Un flag it.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      This is a joke. Tom, what is going on? A serious, high quality comment gets flagged while tea party nonsense and mindless trolling are A-OK?

      • hennorama

        TomK_in_Boston – TY for your kind words and your support. Good on ya!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

    From the womb.
    To the classroom.
    To the assembly line (or whatever).

    So what happened to childhood?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jacqui.lefebvre.9 Jacqui Lefebvre

    I was slightly offended by your guest dismissing vocational training of yesteryear as ‘narrow’!  I trained as a hairdresser in the 70′s and have NEVER been out of work.  The High School curriculum is way too big.  certainly, by junior year even if they have not chosen a career path, they should know what they are leaning towards. 

  • Deb B

    The Broward County, FL Public School district has schools that provide similar programs – the College Academy graduates students with a HS diploma & an AA degree in 4 years; there are high schools located at our vocational schools, and students can graduate with HS diplomas as well as certification in culinary, automotive, etc.; we have a magnet high school with a technical program that graduates kids ready for working with computers or for attending schools like MIT (the students are mentored by Motorola engineers).

    Not every student has the same interest, skill set, or ambition so it is important to provide choices that allow them to find a track that suits them.

  • Sylvia Guerra

    Though there is certainly room for improvement, high school education should remain broad. It should not be attained for employability but rather for the development of critical thinking skills necessary for good citizenship and general knowledge  in order to be well informed people. If anything, like a caller suggested, we should be strengthening our humanities and social science programs in order to stimulate critical thinking skills in young people, which will ultimately allow them to succeed in whatever field they choose, not just one selected for them in high school.

  • MintDragon

    We used to have the basic structure of this system in high school, before the “College for everyone” system was put into place. But it’s a proven fact that not 100% of kids who start 9th grade are going to college. Some of them never make it to high school graduation. And while we have increased the percentage of young people who START college, it’s not having a very promising effect on the college graduation rate. Not everyone wants or has the aptitude for 4 years of advanced academic education. Young Americans who drop out of college have debt but no qualifications to work in any skilled fields – they are largely destined for low paying service economy jobs, without intervention. At the same time, we have a shortage in skilled and high tech trades. The solution seems obvious. I do like Germany’s system, where PRIVATE CORPORATIONS sponsor apprenticeship programs with some government support. Some start at the age of 16 and combine work with classroom time, others start at 18 after a generalist technical/vocational academic program before shifting into the mix of work and classroom training. The apprenticeships last a few years. At the end, apprentices get a credential qualifying them to work in their field. Corporations get a well trained workforce. It’s a win-win.

    • hennorama

      MintDragon – another obvious benefit to the German trainees is economic.  They not only don’t have to pay for their training, they GET PAID during training.

      Even for those who chose the university track, costs are failry low and student loans are relatively uncommon, often used only to finance the recently added tuition fees for German state universities.  Even then, for low-income families, Federal Training Assistance Act loans are usually half zero interest loan (with generous repayment terms based on income) and half grant money.

      Contrast this with post-secondary students in the US as costs continue to rise and more students and parents need loans to pay for school. A recent Federal Reserve Bank of New York report showed student loan debt totals nearing the $1 TRILLION level ($956 billion).  And SL delinquencies are rising, now surpassing credit card deliquency rates, according to Bloomberg.com.  This does not include the use of home mortgage and home equity loans, or credit cards, as means to finance higher ed.

      The NY Fed also indicates that the “delinquency rates for student loans are likely to understate actual delinquency rates because almost half of these loans are currently in deferment, in grace periods or in forbearance and therefore temporarily not in the repayment cycle. This implies that among loans in the repayment cycle delinquency rates are roughly twice as high.”

      “… ROUGHLY TWICE AS HIGH” – yikes!

      These student loans are already a drag on the US economy, as the dollars used to repay them are unavailable to be spent elsewhere.  And as delinquency rates rise, the borrowers’ credit scores drop, making other forms of credit, such as auto loans and mortgages much harder to obtain.  This impacts those sectors significantly and will continue until the student borrowers’ credit scores improve.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-29/student-loans-go-unpaid-burden-u-s-economy-chart-of-the-day.html  (an excellent chart)

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/NA46YHH6OW7EFV4OI6NSRERFLU David

    What many fail to get here when hearing about the German vocational system is that it is more than just the hand worker type trades (carpenters, etc).  Many middle class families here could save major sums of money if there was apprenticeships here like in Germany for a variety of white collar jobs in banking, trade and transportation, insurance, etc.  This could be a huge impact on parents’ and students’ debt levels, future retirement savings, not to mention the perfect match between school and industry for millions of these white collar office type professions.

    • JGC

      Well, I like the main point of your idea, but do we really need to give a leg up to the bankster slice of society? 

    • hennorama

      David – indeed there are an enormous number (about 350 ! ) and a broad range of recognized skilled occupations in Germany.

      The list ranges from alteration tailor to bicycle mechanic and includes optometrist, car salesperson, bank clerk, lab technician, brewer, winemaker, office clerk, chemist, electronic technician, logistic specialists, real estate agent. and … well you get the idea.

      Here’s a link to the list.  It’s in German so you might want to use translation software or toolbar add-on.


  • 049853

    I work with elementary school children developing opportunities for them to experience real world connections for their classroom work. I would love to figure out how to develop a ladder for them to follow as they move through their education experiences in the future. Is anyone planning or implementing this approach to teaching & learning in Boston?
    My work:
    johnrowse@bostonfamilyboatbuilding.org 617-595-8557

    • JGC

      When I see something like this, I wish I was seven years old again and a student in a class like yours. 

  • hennorama

    As the moderator appears to be either asleep or enjoying Valentine’s Day rituals, I’m just going to re-post “This comment was flagged for review” from earlier today:

    [[ Pres. Obama mentioned Germany as an exemplar in his SOTU address.  The German system differs from the US system in significant ways.  In Germany, job training starts much earlier, as the President pointed out.  Roughly 3 of every 4 German students complete a paid internship, combining hands-on training and classroom instruction.  The educational system works in partnership with employers and unions, and career training is practically universal.

    This is paid for by both business and government, as they both recognize the value of career training.

    This is a post from about six months ago, when the topic was "Do Job Retraining Programs Work?":

    "In the U.S., neither companies nor government consider worker training to be a key responsibility until there is a crisis.  Companies will train if they experience a lack of properly trained workers to meet demand, and government will train/retrain workers during periods of high unemployment.  This is an enormous waste of resources and talents.

    "The way it generally works now, prospective workers here have to speculate and make the investment of time and money (college or vocational schooling) without any certainty of employment in the chosen field.

    "Contrast this with the German system of Dual Vocational Training.  After the German equivalent of high school, students apply to a private company for a two or three year training contract. If accepted, the government supplements the trainee’s on-the-job learning with more broad-based education in his or her field of choice at a publicly funded vocational school. Usually, trainees spend three to four days at work and one to two in the classroom. At the end, the theory goes, they come out with both practical and technical skills to compete in a global market, along with a good overall perspective on the nature of their profession. They also receive a state certificate for passing company exams, a credential that allows them to transfer to similar businesses if the training company doesn't keep them beyond the initial contract.

    "Keep in mind that the students are being paid during this time by the training company.  The system also prevents students from entering school without job prospects, since they aren't admitted unless an employer has offered a training contract.

    "Both business and government recognize the value of training workers, and the partnership is very successful.  Unemployment in Germany is currently under 6%, and youth unemployment (under 25) is under 8%.  Overall, a great record."

    UPDATED German Unemployment stats:

    Overall rate (adjusted to U.S. concepts and seasonally adjusted) for Nov. 2012: 5.8%  US rate: 7.8%

    Youth unemployment (under 25) for Dec. 2012: 8.0 %.  US rate: 16.3%


    http://ycharts.com/indicators/germany_youth_unemployment_rate_lfs ]]

  • Stephen_in_Maryland

    The part of the show I heard was misleading as regards the humanities at P-TECH. Mr. Litow said that students at the school took the same courses as students at other schools but that they were oriented differently. However, P-TECH lists no teachers in the arts: no art teacher, no drama teacher, no music teacher.

  • Kevin B

    My husband is French and their system is much like the Germans.  I have long felt like we waste so much financial and human capital with our educational system.  There, they have a layered system and kids get routed through the system based on their performance at various points in their educational journey.

    If you want to be a Nuclear Engineer, you need to show an aptitude and a desire to learn what’s needed before you get to college. Here, we push to have everyone go to college when a good portion of those who go to college end up selling cars or delivering mail. It isn’t that these jobs aren’t important – they most certainly are…but they do not necessarily require a college degree and why in the world would you spend the $100,000 to get a degree if you don’t need to?!

    The problem is that Americans in general have an aversion to “tracking” which is what is required in this type of system.

  • jdewey42

    I would like to listen to yesterday’s program regarding vocational training, but it is currently listed as unavailable.  Is there a way that I can get access to the broadcast?

  • Eric Graig

    Can you please get the audio up. I’ve shared thi link with a half dozen colleagues who would love to listen to the broadcast.

  • homebuilding

    The President is wrong.  Lots of the technical jobs don’t need a very high level of science and math–some, for certain, but for sure, not all.

    We need to HONOR and value the folks that have the knowledge and wherewithall to fix stuff, to repair stuff, to install stuff and make it work for all.

    In a German airport you can see the bold letters “TECHNIK” in reflective letters on the backs of the uniforms of a student, with his mentor (also in the same clothing) as they boldly and proudly pass through the airport on their way to repair/maintain aircraft.

    Instead we have a host of teens amusing themselves with the marvels of kim who know nothing about sewing, cooking, changing a spark plug, or making a neat, right angle cut with a handsaw.  (before you make a snarky comment, note that basic
    skills are ALWAYS required for any higher level understanding and mastery–a point that’s absolutely forgotten in the USA)

    Recently West Philadelphia HS was the ONLY USA HS to have an entry in the Progressive X prize fo the 100 mpg automobile–press coverage was about zero.  School board and school administrator knowledge about this is also about zero.

    Any wonder that the faculty leader of this project has ‘moved on?’

  • ExcellentNews

    Having been educated there, I would gladly join the chorus saying the European educational system is superior …:)

    • Sy2502

      Growing up, I got to see my sister have a nervous breakdown while studying for her Nuclear Physics degree. I decided I that wasn’t what I wanted. I went to an experimental high school with a specialized curriculum in Engineering and Computer Science. Without a university degree, I got an excellent job as Software Engineer in Microelectronics. Through reputation and word of mouth, an American microchip giant contacted me with a very juicy job offer. I eventually did go back to college to get a degree, but I can attest to the utility of GOOD specialized training in place of college education. 

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