After a twenty year decline in enrollment, vocational education is back in vogue.
As employers around the state complain about not being able to find enough qualified workers to fill the jobs they have open, schools and political leaders are starting to take notice.
Governor John Kasich recently said he wants to expand vocational education to give kids workforce skills and ensure they are prepared for the jobs of the future.
Vocational–or career technical education–has a long history in Ohio.
Here are five things to know:
1. Ohio’s career technical education programs date back to the Industrial Revolution.
Steve Gratz, Senior Executive Director of the Ohio Department of Education, says vocational education classes existed in Ohio back in 1828 and became more widespread in 1917 when the federal Smith Hughes Act gave federal dollars to states to provide vocational education.
Decades later, state law ushered in the creation of career technical planning districts and required that students all over the state could access CTE programs. Today, students take the courses either at their high school, the local joint vocational school district, or through a career technical planning district. Students aren’t explicitly tracked into vocational ed, and often find out about the programs through a school counselor.
2. Roughly a fifth of eligible students take vocational ed.
From 2009 to 2012, the most recent data available, between 22 and 23 percent of all of Ohio’s public high school students participated in a career tech program. ODE says its difficult to compare current enrollment with previous years because the state has changed the rules for analyzing the data.
Vocational training is no longer just for high schooloers. In September 2013, at the prompting of Governor Kasich, ODE changed the rules and now allows middle school students to enroll in CTE courses.
3. Vocational education is more than just auto shop and cosmetology.
Those traditional programs still exist, but today’s career tech programs includes classes in agribusiness, exercise science, computer network security, and financial management. Check out a full list from ODE here.
4. Every CTE student has the chance to earn college credit.
Steve Gratz with ODE says students learn industry approved content and take exams at the end of each course that evaluate whether they can perform entry level work in that field.
5. Half of CTE students pursue post-secondary education.
The Ohio Department of Education says self-reported survey data show 50 percent of students who finish a CTE program continue on to get further industry training, or take college courses for a two or four year degree.