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Vocational High: Preparing Students for Life without a College Degree

Many people believe the purpose of a high school education is to prepare students for college.  The end goal for many American high school students is admission to a two-year or four-year college, though many might not know what they want to study.  Paradoxically, the cost of two-year and four-year degrees has increased to the point that many students are not able to afford a college degree.  Many school districts are responding to this issue by providing students with opportunities to learn a trade while earning a high school diploma, thus allowing them to enter the workforce somewhat, if not fully, trained upon graduation.  These vocational programs serve a growing need in our high schools and I hope to see the trend continue in the future.

Many
people believe the purpose of a high school education is to prepare students
for college.  The end goal for many
American high school students is admission to a two-year or four-year college, though
many might not know what they want to study.  Paradoxically, the cost of two-year and four-year
degrees has increased to the point that many students are not able to afford a college
degree. 

Many school districts are
responding to this issue by providing students with opportunities to learn a
trade while earning a high school diploma, thus allowing them to enter the
workforce somewhat, if not fully, trained upon graduation.  These vocational programs serve a growing need
in our high schools and I hope to see the trend continue in the future.

A Job after
Graduation

At
Midlothian High School (MHS) in Midlothian, TX, students can study cosmetology,
automotive technology, or automotive collision repair. Vocational students
receive industry-specific training during school hours in order to gain entry-level
employment in one of these fields upon graduation.  MHS collaborates with a neighboring school
district, Waxahachie ISD, to allow students from both schools to participate in
vocational training in order to earn their certification.  Approximately 15-20 students travel to
Waxahachie High School, about 15 minutes away from MHS, daily and are awarded
high school credits for these hours, on top of credits earned towards their
individual certifications.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

College or
Career

While
these programs can potentially benefit every student who takes advantage of
them, I believe vocational training works best for the students who know they
will not continue onto college after graduation.  Whether due to economic hardship, family
pressure, or personal preference, some students will not go to college.  Vocational programs allow non-college bound
students more opportunity to become productive adults without having to spend a
lot of extra time and money on school.  Having
these certification classes during high school hours allows students to begin
earning a living upon graduating, as they eliminate the years of certification
classes traditionally taken after high school.

One
MHS student, who graduated with a certification in cosmetology in the spring of
2012, confessed to me that she’s not sure what she would be doing with her life
at this moment if she had not taken those classes in high school.  She knew college was not the place for her
but she was not sure how she would earn a living.  The vocational program changed her outcome.  With her cosmetology certification in hand,
she is renting a space in a local salon and earning a living.  Vocational programs better prepare students
for life after high school by giving them skills they can use to earn a living.

Vocational
Training Gets Results

I
have yet to find a person, in the education field or out, who speaks negatively
about the vocational programs at Midlothian High School.  Everyone with whom I have spoken has
applauded our school for finding different ways to help students become
successful, productive adults.  For many
of my students, vocational programs have been the difference between barely
getting by and succeeding.  I would enjoy
hearing about different vocational programs across the country and would
welcome hearing other points of view and experiences different from my own.

Want to hear more about making a smart college decision? Watch our video, What is the Value of Education, featuring Lindsey Childress.

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Keep the discussion on the value of education going on Twitter using hashtag #valueofedu

Lindsey
Childress has a BS in Sociology from Texas A&M University and a master’s
degree in Counseling from Tarleton State University.  She taught 8th grade math and Algebra 1 for
four years and just began her fourth year as a guidance counselor at Frank Seale
Middle School in Midlothian, TX.

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