Vocational education is in the midst of a renaissance, according to a new report published by the Manhattan Institute for Public Policy’s Center for State and Local Leadership. The report, written by nationally recognized policy expert Tamar Jacoby, makes the case that the growing skills gap and skyrocketing college debt has created the perfect storm for career and technical education (CTE) to once again thrive in America. While the benefits of CTE are well documented and momentum is moving in the right direction, Ms. Jacoby argues that business and industry must play their part to ensure that CTE pathways grow beyond second-class status.
“Who better than employers to set standards? Not only do companies know exactly what skills they need in the workplace; they’re also far more likely than educators to be aware of how those skills are changing and how CTE training should change to keep up. At a time of record deficits and revenue-neutral budgeting, employers are a natural source of funding for vocational training. Perhaps most important, only employer involvement can guarantee the bottom line that is most important to students: that CTE training actually lead to a job. Unless and until it does, voc ed will never be as good a choice as college.”
A major focus of the paper was placed on the importance of Industry Standards–the construction industry standards produced by the NCCER are used as the example of how industry can engage in shaping the skills training of their workforce. The nationally recognized credentials delivered by NCCER’s accredited training providers are a valuable alternative to those construction professionals who are not attracted to the more rigid, less efficient and highly regulated government training provided by registered apprenticeship programs. Regardless of the standard or credential, trainees fail to reach their full potential without the existence of a robust training infrastructure to deliver the classroom and hands-on training.
As outlined in the study, the ABC-affiliated Craft Training Center of the Coastal Bend is a best-in-class example of the power that industry collaboration and committed leadership can have on CTE. It is not enough to simply train students in the skilled trades. Success will only be achieved if those students meet the needs of local employers when they graduate. By learning industry-recognized standards in facilities supported by local businesses, they will have a clear path to high paying careers.