Posts tagged ‘Vocational education’

June 19, 2014

Quick ways to get training for a ‘livable wage’ job

by Grace

What are some relatively short (2-6 months) courses i can take to become certified in something that provides a livable wage?

A Reddit poster asked this question, and here are the top responses as of June 17.

  1. Welding.
  2. Hairstylist / Massage therapy, nail tech, aesthetician. / Culinary degree.
  3. CPR instructor
  4. forklift operator
  5. GCODE, etc
  6. TEFL certificate
  7. Phlebotomy
  8. deal table games like blackjack and roulette
  9. driving semi trucks
  10. HVAC-R

Not all these suggestions may sound appealing, but some of them do seem worthy of further exploration.  In looking at comments on the TEFL certificate idea, it appears that a college degree is almost always a prerequisite.

Related to suggestion #5 is the newly announced NanoDegree.

A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job

Udacity-AT&T ‘NanoDegree’ Offers an Entry-Level Approach to College

This week, AT&T and Udacity, the online education company founded by the Stanford professor and former Google engineering whiz Sebastian Thrun, announced something meant to be very small: the “NanoDegree.”

At first blush, it doesn’t appear like much. For $200 a month, it is intended to teach anyone with a mastery of high school math the kind of basic programming skills needed to qualify for an entry-level position at AT&T as a data analyst, iOS applications designer or the like.

This is another quick way to qualify for a “livable wage”.

… offering a narrow set of skills that can be clearly applied to a job, providing learners with a bite-size chunk of knowledge and an immediate motivation to acquire it.

It may not offer all the advantages of a liberal arts education, but it could offer a plausible path to young men and women who may not have the time, money or skill to make it through a four-year or even a two-year degree.

AT&T will accept the NanoDegree as a credential for entry-level jobs (and is hoping to persuade other companies to accept it, too) and has reserved 100 internship slots for its graduates. Udacity is also creating NanoDegrees with other companies.

The hardest part is finding the motivation and persistence to follow through.  All these options require a motivated person willing to put in the hours needed to obtain the skills and certification.  The short time span is an advantage here, certainly compared to the four-plus years needed for a bachelor’s degree.

Another challenge is to avoid taking on crippling student loan debt, so students must be careful about choosing schools that offer a good value.

Related:  “Should we go back to more vocational high school options?” (Cost of College)


Eduardo Porter, “A Smart Way to Skip College in Pursuit of a Job”, New York Times, June  17, 2014.

November 20, 2013

A different kind of scholarship

by Grace

“We’re lending money we don’t have, to students who can’t pay it back, to educate them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.”

Mike Rowe, former host of TV show Dirty Jobs and known as “the dirtiest man on TV.” has seen too many young people taking out student loans that do not lead to well-paying, satisfying careers.  This prompted him to establish a scholarship for trade and technical training.

Personally, I think it’s insane to start a career thirty grand in the hole, especially when there are no jobs in your chosen field. The fact is, the vast majority of jobs today do NOT require a four-year degree. They require training, and a truly useful skill. I think we’ve confused the cost of an education with the price of a diploma. That’s why I started The mikeroweWORKS Scholarship Fund. I want to challenge the idea that an expensive four-year degree is the best path for the most people, and call attention to thousands of real opportunities in the real world that real companies are struggling to fill.

So far about half a dozen technical schools are participating in the scholarship program.  Application requirements include an essay, attendance records, and references.  Applicants must also sign the S.W.E.A.T. Pledge (Skills & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo), an affirmation expressing a strong work ethic and self-reliance.  Here’s one statement from the pledge.

12. I believe that all people are created equal. I also believe that all people make choices. Some choose to be lazy. Some choose to sleep in. I choose to work my butt off.

Back in the 1970s, Rowe saw a poster in his high school guidance office that gave what he thought was horrible advice.  It urged students to“work smart, not hard”.

… The picture of the person working “smart” was holding a diploma, and the person working “hard” looked miserable performing some form of manual labor.

Rowe created an alternative poster with a new message.


Rowe is not anti-college.

“I’m not against a college education. I’m against debt,” …

What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.

“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”

Of the roughly three million jobs that companies are struggling to fill, Rowe said only 8 to 12 percent require a college degree.

It’s true that too many college graduates are chasing too few college-level jobs.



December 14, 2012

New York proposes two new types of high school diplomas

by Grace

The New York State Board of Regents will soon vote on an initiative that would create two new types of high school diploma, thereby offering more options for different types of students.  One diploma would focus on STEM studies and the other would teach technical vocational skills.

The STEM diploma would include an advanced calculus course or extra science course for an advanced degree in technology. The CTE diploma would have students participate in specialized training programs, which could replace an elective or core course.

Some possible CTE substitutions for students to learn technical skills include a Federal Aviation Administration certification, a Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician certification or a National Occupational Competency Testing Institute Job Ready Assessment, Schumer said.

The editorial board supports this initiative, citing the unwillingness of domestic employers to pay for such training.

Sunday’s “60 Minutes” report on the skills gap — three days later Schumer followed with his own related proposal to the state Board of Regents — noted that many U.S. manufacturers, competing with cheap labor the world over, no longer are willing to pay to train new workers for high-skill jobs; they expect school districts, community colleges, four-year colleges and other taxpayer-supported institutions to pick up all or some of the cost.

If approved, the new diploma programs may be in place as early as next school year.

This proposal appears to be a move away from the state’s recent emphasis on a single path for all students, an idea that was associated with the recent elimination of the less rigorous “local diploma”.  Now there’s recognition that “one size doe not fit all”.

“The Regents understand that one size does not fit all students. Too many of our students are forced onto a single graduation pathway,” Tompkins said. “Their skills and potential are stifled and they end up unprepared for success in adult life.”

Changes are needed for graduates to meet 21st century job requirements.

Schumer said his support follows employers’ accounts of gaps between available positions and skilled applicants. Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, for example, often has trouble filling job openings for machinists and welders, skills found along the CTE pathway, he said.

The state Labor Department, meanwhile, projected a 135 percent increase in STEM-related computer and electronic product manufacturing jobs in the Albany area from 2008 to 2018, anticipating the addition of 1,800 positions.

“As upstate New York’s economy switches gears towards the advanced industries of the 21st century, we need our students and education system to keep pace,” Schumer said.

CTE and STEM students would be exempt from taking the “notoriously difficult” global history Regents exam.

The state Education Department has proposed requiring a CTE assessment in place of a global history exam that’s required for students pursuing a traditional diploma. Those on the STEM track would substitute a second math or science assessment for the global history exam.

Students still would be required to pass a course in global history and to pass English, math, science and U.S. history exams.


June 12, 2012

Should we go back to more vocational high school options?

by Grace

Nancy Hoffman argues that high school vocational programs should not be viewed as the “default for failing students”, but as a smart alternative to the college-for-all mentality that has become pervasive in the United States.  In her book, Schooling in the Workplace, she looks at lessons to be learned from the educational programs in six countries – Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland.

While acknowledging that not everyone is cut out to “debate the big ideas in literature and in politics”, Hoffman conversely maintains that “we need a much stronger set of academic demands up to age 16”.  Amen to that!  Since we now seem to have few students able either to intelligently debate the big ideas or write a coherent paragraph, our system might be failing us on both counts.  The least we should aim for is a higher percentage of citizens who are self-supporting and able to participate fully in our democracy.

Perpetuating class and racial divisions?

One stumbling block to reinvigorating the high school vocational track is the criticism that doing so perpetuates class divisions, promoting vocational education as an option only for working class or minority children.  Hoffman responds by pointing to the European experience and expressing a pragmatic assessment of our present situation.

… Income inequality is much greater in the United States than in European countries. There is much greater mobility in the European countries than here. Secondly, my view is that I would much rather have a 3 percent youth unemployment rate and most young people having a job, than have the bifurcated system we have in the United States, [in which some kids go to four-year college, and the rest face a 22 percent unemployment rate].

I’m not sure about Hoffman’s claim that income mobility is higher in Europe than here, but in any case I am more interested in her argument that we should be looking at policy ideas that have a realistic chance of improving our dire unemployment problem.  I just don’t think we can afford to waste time with romantic ideas about how everyone one of us should aspire to get a bachelor’s degree.

My experience

I am the product of a vocational high school education.  In my last two years of high school, I participated in DECA (previously known as Distributive Education Clubs of America).  The program has morphed into something slightly different, but back then it was a way for a high school students to spend part of the day in the classroom while working at a paid job in the afternoon.  We received classroom instruction in various job skills and took part in competitions against other schools.

There were various reasons why I ended up in DECA instead of  in a traditional college prep track, but mainly it was for the money.  As it turned out I did attend college right after high school graduation, but was handicapped by gaps in my high school education.  It was only through my perseverance and aptitude that I managed to get my college degree in a STEM field.

Vocational high school could be a better option for many different types of students.

While it might be dangerous to extrapolate from my experience, I can see how disadvantaged and/or academically weak students could benefit from choosing a high school vocational education.  Several possible outcomes are likely for these students.  One is that they would start working right after graduation at a job that pays a living wage, enabled by training and experience gained in high school. That could be followed later by postsecondary training, either vocational or traditional college.  Or they might go on to higher education directly after high school, although perhaps only strongly motivated students would opt for the traditional four-year college experience.  In any case, vocational high school could be a better option for different types of high school students.

Amid evidence that most of the fastest growing jobs in this country will not require a college degree, this comment helps make the case for vocational high schools.

This country needs carpenters, electricians, auto mechanics, computer techs and all sorts of other workers, none of whom need a college education to do their job.  The last thing this country needs is another unemployed marketing or communications major!

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