It seems we’re preparing our children for college earlier and earlier. College readiness is a driving force behind many educational decisions in this country. This has resulted in only 6% of American high school students being enrolled in a vocational program (in 2013), whereas comparable European nations have numbers closer to 50%.
For those that do start college, graduating isn’t a sure thing. 6 years after first enrolling, fewer than 60% of students have attained a degree. If you look at only open-admissions schools, the number drops to 32%. That represents a huge investment of money and time on the part of Americans that doesn’t lead them to a positive outcome.
On the other side, the underemployment rate for recent college grads is approaching 44%, and one-third end up in jobs that don’t require the degree they earned.
College is being over-prescribed in this country. Not everyone has an interest in obtaining a college degree, and there are many jobs out there that don’t require it. Georgetown has estimated that there are 30 million good-paying jobs out there that don’t require a college degree. Most require some type of specialized training.
As a country, we need to dramatically increase our investment in vocational training, providing a viable career path for those students who are more interested in starting their careers immediately after high school instead of continuing with an education they don’t want but feel obligated to get.
There are tens of millions of jobs that will be with us for decades that don’t require a college degree: machinists, line repair, air-conditioning repair, exterminator, high-end manufacturing, and so on. We need to remove any stigma from vocational education and dramatically increase its visibility and availability. Apprenticeships should be a big part of the future of education for millions of Americans that would give them a runway to a fulfilling livelihood.
Problems to be Solved
- Too many students invest in college when it’s not the right investment for them.
- Too few students are aware of alternative career paths, or lack access to training for those paths.
- Some feel there is a stigma attached to vocational jobs.
- Increase vocational training options in public schools
- Counsel students on the right path for them, based on their interests and career goals
As President, I will…
- Increase funding to vocational programs within public schools.
- Direct the Dept. of Education to provide materials to all public schools about career paths that don’t require a college degree.
- Prioritize career paths that students express interest in rather than giving blanket advice that college is the right/only option.
- Begin a public education campaign championing vocational jobs and education, “I Work With My Hands – And It’s Awesome.”