Did you know until 1950, all students were taught both academics and basic vocational skills? School was utilized to educate and prepare young minds for the rest of their lives, with encouragement to go down whatever career path they showed interest in and a natural ability for. However, as time went on there was a push to prepare all students for a college education, leaving vocational training on the back burner.
So how does this affect young adults entering the work force today? No two students are the same, resulting in a multitude of different learning styles and a wide variety of skills. Some students excel at math, history and biology, and others are better at thinking mechanically and strategically or creatively. Some people learn well in large classrooms, while others thrive in hands-on learning and prefer to participate to best comprehend new information. Most importantly, not everyone goes to a traditional four-year college – so why are we preparing everyone for the same path?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68% of high school students attend college, while over 30% are entering the work force with neither academic or job skills. Furthermore, of the 68% attending college nearly 40% will not finish, resulting in wasted time and a heap of student loan debt to deal with. Around one-third of the remaining 28% that do finish college, end up with jobs they could have earned without a four-year degree. College can be a student’s path to success, but for some there is more than one path.
It’s time we bring back vocational training in the high school setting as a potential career path. The negative predisposition against vocational education is destructive to the process of encouraging students to seek training wherever their natural gifts and preferences lead them. Many of the skills most needed to compete in the global market of the 21st century are technical and vocational. The absence of qualified applicants in many of these fields is costing us economically as a nation. These jobs are left empty because younger generations perceive less value in being an HVAC specialist or electrician than an engineer or a medical professional. All the while, young adults are entering lifelong careers that are not fulfilling and don’t best suit their natural talents, not to mention they don’t encourage growth and entrepreneurship.
If you know a young talent who excels at working with their hands or tools, likes building things, or is a detail-oriented problem solver, encourage them to seek out apprenticeship programs or internships and strive for what makes them happy. Choosing a career path that leads to a lifetime of happiness is one of the most important goals we can set for upcoming generations.