Should vocational education concentrate on preparing students for specific jobs or should it be more focused on broader career development, including lifelong learning, employability, and cognitive skills? This Digest explores these questions and examines how vocational education programs can best prepare students to meet the demands of the current and future workplace.
Job Training and Vocational Education
When asked to describe the role of vocational education in the schooling of the nation's youth, most educators (and citizens) would say it is to prepare students for work in a given trade or vocational area. For many years, this preparation has focused on job skill training, the philosophy being that training individuals in the "hands-on" tasks required for work is of primary importance in ensuring their employability and job market success. This singular attention to job-specific skills continues to characterize many vocational education programs. The controversy among educators is whether or not students are actually acquiring the appropriate job-specific skills and whether or not those skills are sufficient for the comprehensive education of youth.
In an effort to document the learning gains for students in secondary and adult full-time vocational programs, states are developing skill standards for given occupations upon which their vocational curricula are based. These standards form the basis for assessing students' entry-level occupational skills plus the employability skills that are generic to all occupations. The documentation of these skills then provides vocational program completers with credentials (or a career passport) to present to potential employers, thus e...
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