Vocational education has a bad rep, says Nisha Choksi, who studies the effect of vocational training on economic development.
“Some people believe that students go into vocational education if they’re troublemakers or low-achievers,” Choksi says at TEDxCranbrookSchoolsWomen. “Other people think that vocational education is for those individuals who don’t want to go to college or could never get in. And vocational education is also often thought to be the type of training that prepares individuals for manual labor, low-wage jobs, or jobs that somehow make one ‘dirty’ in some way.”
This is not true, says Choksi, but these attitudes persist in young people around the world. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company polled youth from Brazil, Germany, India, Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States and found that nearly 2/3 of the youth surveyed believed that vocational education was less valued by society.
“We’ve become so consumed by this notion that vocational education is not very beneficial for students that we’ve really come to disregard it,” she says. “I think we need to take a second look at vocational education.”
Why? Because vocational education offers a wealth of benefits to students, Choksi says. Vocational programs train students for many high-demand (and high-wage) jobs, develop practical skillsets and — because of the focus on hands-on learning and apprenticeship — often engage students at a higher level than traditional classroom learning.
“Vocational education is useful for a wide range of students,” Choksi says. “It’s a good option for those who don’t think college is a great fit and it’s also good for the student who might want to take some time off in between high school and college because they want to gain some real world experience.”
Vocational education is also good for the global economy, says Choksi. She quotes workforce analysts ManpowerGroup’s 2014 Talent Shortage Survey, which found that the number one employee shortage identified by employers is in the skilled trades.
In fact, the top three areas of employee shortage — skilled workers, engineers and technicians — all involve some sort of vocational training . “[Right now] we don’t have enough people in the talent pool to fill these jobs,” she says.
How to get people into these jobs — and offer quality education opportunities to more students? Reconceptualize vocational education, Choksi says. And she has some ideas on how to make that happen.
Watch Choksi’s entire talk to learn more: