Reassessing the Role of Vo-Tech in U.S. High Schools

Tracing the history of vo-tech courses as part of every U.S. student’s academic experience in an article for Forbes, Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, advocates for bringing vocational training back to schools. In the piece he challenges the idea that “college for all” is a valid educational goal and instead pushes for students to become educated in the variety of options open to them after graduation.


  • Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that about 68% of high school students attend college, meaning over 30% graduate with neither academic nor job skills. However, almost 40% of students who begin four-year college programs don’t complete them. Of those who do finish college, one-third or more will end up in jobs that don’t require a college degree.
  • Over 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or under-employed with incomes varying according to degree. And even though reports show that college graduates earn more than high school graduates, there is a subset of high school students who graduate with vocational training who go into well-paying, skilled jobs.
  • The manufacturing sector is growing and modernizing, but the lack of vocational training has created a skills shortage. 

“Not everyone is good at math, biology, history and other traditional subjects that characterize college-level work,” writes Wyman. “Some students are mechanical; others are artistic. Some focus best in a lecture hall or classroom; still others learn best by doing, and would thrive in the studio, workshop or shop floor."

Read “Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools,” by Nicholas Wyman, Forbes (September 1, 2015) 

For more on the state of career tech in U.S. schools, come to the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group Fall Policy Exchange where Kim Green, Executive Director of NASDCTEC, will talk about education beyond the three r’s.


Education Policy