With the average college student owing $30,000 in debt, and with some being well into 6 digits, more and more students are looking for alternatives. Well, there are a lucky few in the US who graduate high school and are prepared for a lifelong career.
You or your student can benefit from the same fortune if you’re able to start early enough. Let’s talk about the pros and cons of attending a vocational high school.
How Is Vocational School Different?
Students who attend vocational high school are likely to get a similar education to those who attend a traditional school while learning a few key additional skills. Although vocational schools highlight these skills, they do still teach core curriculum classes like any other high school.
Students will still be taught history, mathematics, science, and English at the same levels as their public school peers, but they will also be taught useful life skills that can be turned into a career later in their lives.
Every school will have a different curriculum and a different structure to balance these different styles of learning. For example, some will alternate weeks so that students work on their core education one week, and their shop education the next. Other’s may alternate days, and some may just blend them all together.
Regardless of the structure, students will get to choose either a “major” like they would in college, or they can take a series of vocational electives and learn a variety of different skills, based on the student’s personal interests.
If students have a passion for cars, they could learn about automotive design or repair, auto bodywork, and more. They may learn how to wire a house, how to build robotics, or how to install a piping system. Again, it’s based on their interests and the curriculum is designed to prepare them for a future career or apprenticeship.
The benefits of this type of education are enormous, but it is certainly not for everyone. Let’s talk about some of the downsides of vocational education before we jump into the benefits.
Cons of Attending Vocational High School
There’s no doubt that vocational education isn’t for everybody. Before you think about enrolling, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. Let’s start with some of the downsides that many students face and go from there.
Some May Not Like The Different Structure
Vocational schools have a different learning structure than traditional schools and it does sound appealing to many, but it isn’t always for everybody. Some students may start a class and feel overwhelmed by rotating weeks, transitioning between workshops and classrooms, and learning such a wide variety of topics.
However, some students thrive under these circumstances. Every student learns differently, so it’s important to know what you are getting into to make an informed decision.
Now, you may have the best vocational teachers in the world, but there’s a reason to doubt that you’ll get them for every class. Teachers are hired in vocational schools for their knowledge of a trade, and not as much for their abilities to teach.
In a traditional school, there is student teaching, teaching licensing, examination, and educational requirements. While certain vocational schools will require further credentials, not all teachers are guaranteed to be the best curriculum designers.
Lack of Variety
This isn’t to say that there is less variety than in a public school setting. What we mean is that there can be a lack of variety within their career education.
It’s important to understand that this depends on the school. Some vocational high schools will offer very specialized training for specific majors and some will offer a wider variety of electives.
However, some students who are enrolled in one specific program may feel tied down, especially if they change their minds about the career path later on. Think about it, would you have been able to choose your career at the end of 8th grade and stuck with it?
If a student feels like they don’t want to learn more about a particular subject when Junior or Senior year comes around, they may wind up feeling like they wasted their time. If a program allows students to try out a variety of different career skills they may find interesting at the beginning of their high school journey, that will likely help them avoid this fate.
Pros of Attending Vocational High School
Students are all different, so it’s impossible to make blanket statements about which education is better. Some students will benefit from certain learning structures, while those same structures may hinder other students’ abilities to learn.
However, there are plenty of undeniable benefits to attending a vocational school, no matter who the student is. Let’s talk about some of them.
Doesn’t Harm College Prospects
A common misconception about vocational high schools is that every student goes into the trades, which is simply not the case. In fact, because students still receive the same core education as traditional students, attending a vocational school will not negatively impact a student’s college prospects at all.
While providing valuable career education, vocational schools will still offer college readiness programs, and students can even look into extracurricular activities, receive the same recognition for their hard work, and more. Check out the National Honor Society description to learn more about college prospects.
Increase Career Options
Because vocational school won’t harm your college prospects, it simply opens up more doors for students. Students who attend vocational high school are likely more prepared for life after graduation, as they will have more options available to them.
Students who are unsure about college can always attend a community college and have a lucrative and in-demand trade to fall back on if they decide that college isn’t for them. While attending a vocational high school doesn’t guarantee anybody a job in the trades, it certainly helps when finding jobs or apprenticeships.
Some vocational programs even offer job placement opportunities. This is where they work with companies in the field they are teaching and provide students with job opportunities right after graduation. This is an enormous benefit over public schools.
Learning Real-World Skills
Even if students choose to go to college or get a job in a completely unrelated field, they will still be taught real-world skills that they can use for the rest of their lives, whether it’s for a career or for their own personal benefit.
If students choose to own a home, drive a car, invest in a rental property, take on a hobby, or pursue a side hustle, their options will be open and they will be able to save money or make money with the skills they learn in a vocational school. Think about all the money you could save in your lifetime by doing your own car and home repairs.
Building Better Relationships
In a hands-on environment, students tend to develop closer relationships with their teachers and their peers. Students are more often to work in group environments and rely on each other to complete a task.
This fosters social development and the ability to work in teams, which will only help them in their careers and personal lives later on. This also has positive effects on the students’ ability and willingness to learn in their programs.
Often Affordable Programs
Private vocational institutions tend to be more affordable than their traditional private counterparts. Many cities and regions even offer vocational schools as part of their public school program, with limited to even free tuition.
There are often vouchers in the case of private vocational institutions, making them even more affordable for those who want to enroll their students but who may lack the financial means. It’s great to look into your options in your area to see what prices they offer.
Preparing Students for Jobs of the Future
One of the biggest problems with traditional high schools is that valuable career education has become lost in such an ever-changing world and economy. The jobs from 20 years ago are very different from the jobs 20 years from now.
The world is preparing to radically change our electric grids, invest in new energy technologies, continue improving computers and computer programming, and more. Think about the work that needs to be done.
More and more companies need cyber security, the world needs to divest from fossil fuels and switch to all-electric energy, and there needs to be a massive upgrade in renewable energy sources. All of that requires highly skilled labor, and the demand for it will only increase within the coming decades.
In fact, the solar industry alone has been growing at a 43% rate every year, and that isn’t expected to stop. In fact, the current target is for solar to produce 45% of US energy by 2050, which is far higher than current rates.
Since we are working to become a more efficient and advanced society, learning English and History still has a place in education, but they aren’t quite enough to prepare a student for the working world.
Having electrical, mechanical, or other vocational training will place students in the best possible position after graduation for pursuing a lasting and fruitful career.
Helps Foster Learning
When students are in traditional school, they often get bored of sitting in a classroom for hours upon hours every day. With vocational school, students are more likely to find an interest in the topics they are learning, as there is more overall variety and diversity with class structures.
For many students, this offers them a new curiosity about the world and may drive them to want to learn more. This is especially true when students are being taught new skills that they can directly translate into their home life.
Students may find a new passion in their vocational education that they may not have discovered in a public school. This doesn’t have to lead to a career, it could simply lead to a lifelong hobby, volunteer venture, or more.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to education, the verdict on vocational high schools is that, depending on how your student learns, they offer a wide variety of benefits.
If your student has difficulty learning in traditional school, they may benefit greatly from a more widely-varied learning structure and the ability to work in a more hands-on environment. If they show interest in working with mechanics or any other hands-on projects, then a vocational high school may be right for them.
Talk to your student about these options and gauge how interested they may be in enrolling in such a program. You may make their day just by bringing it up, and you’ll be able to rest assured that they will be prepared for the real world and that they’ll have plenty of doors opened up for their future.
There’s a reason that the number of students enrolled in vocational programs rose from 9 million to over 16 million since 1999. The jobs of the future depend on skilled labor, and that requires the right education.
Now that you know the pros and cons of vocational high school, you’ll be able to make an informed decision for you or your student. There are so many benefits to these programs, especially at a time where the job world is changing so dramatically. Either way, look into the right program for your needs, and stay up to date with our latest career and education news!