Monday, September 15, 2014

What are vocational schools for?

An article today on the front page of the Boston Globe points to the number of jobs for which it would seem vocational school graduates should be qualified that are going empty. There's some back and forth about the number of seats in the state at vocational schools* but you have to read all the way to the end to get to what's really up:
Buck Upson, retired chief executive of Pioneer Tool Supply, a Western Massachusetts distributor of manufacturing equipment, said the competition for vocational school spots allows administrators to select top students, many of whom go to college, while those with imperfect academic or discipline records — arguably, those who might benefit the most from vocational education — are left behind. 
“The kids that need the break, that don’t have the option to go to college, are being bypassed,” he said.
“You’re filling the chairs with the wrong kids.”

The thing that I find most interesting about this is it's COMING FROM INDUSTRY. Get any group of school committee members, or district administrators, or state reps, together, and the above is hardly news.
The kids whose parents might own a small business--say they're plumbers or carpenters--are often finding that their kids can't get into the local vo-tech school (a school where in many cases their parents went) because kids with high test scores, perfect attendance, straight A's, and perfect discipline records are taking all the slots.
But are those kids going to be plumbers? In most cases, no.
The merest suggestion of this, though, is enough to bring in vo-tech administrators en masse. I don't think it's going to be heard until industry points out that they aren't getting the workers they need out of the vo-tech schools. And at some point, I assume the Legislature is going to realize that vo-tech schools are about twice as expensive as non-vocational schools, and maybe consider about what they think they're doing with that money and check to see if it's what they're actually getting.
Sending kids to college is great.
So is having enough plumbers.

As a side note, which probably deserves it's own post, check out those charts next to the article are the racial distribution at vo-tech schools. 
Should you be wondering about Worcester: the district is 38.7% Hispanic/Latino; 35.8% white; 14% black; 7.7% Asian. Worcester Tech is 34.6% Hispanic/Latino; 44.5% white; 12.4% black; 5.7% Asian. All numbers from the FY15 budget book. 

*note to the Globe: I'm not sure what a "free-standing vocational school" means, but Worcester Tech was opened in 2006, which is a bit more recently than thirty years.

1 comment:

Audrey Blakeney said...

I agree that it is somewhat ironic that students who could qualify for college are filling all vocational school spots. Sadly, this is keeping out those who could benefit from a vocational education. My brother has always been fascinated with plumbing, but has had trouble getting into a plumbing school. Do you have any advice for you that you found in the article you mentioned? Vocational Schools