Vocational education is in the midst of a brand makeover. For about a decade or so, the nation’s vocational schools had to deal with an unwarranted stigma associated with student attendance. It seems somewhere along the line society deemed a college education the only way to financial security and success in the post industrial age.
This thought couldn’t be further from the truth. Vocational education provides a the opportunity for students who prefer hands-on action to find and learn a skilled trade that will allow them to earn a great wage and enjoy a slice of the American Dream that so many U.S. citizens speak of.
As the need for vocational education increases, states are meeting the demand by opening new, cutting-edge vocational education facilities.
One such state is New York. The city Department of Education plans to expand its early college and career technical education high school program—lauded by President Obama in his State of the Union speech—with three new schools next year.
The schools, modeled after Brooklyn’s highly touted Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, will work in partnership with a City University of New York institution and a company. The students, who will graduate with an associate degree in six years, are then given first preference for a job within the company sponsoring the school, said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott Thursday.
“This is a partnership that changes lives and will change lives for decade after decade,” said Mr. Walcott. “We are highly confident that this strategy will pay off not just for the student and the partners here today, but for the entire city and for generations of children and students to come.”
Though P-Tech has yet to have a graduating class, school districts nationwide are already replicating the concept. Similar schools have been opened in Chicago, and several are planned throughout upstate New York.
In the city, two other schools will open next month: Health, Education, and Research Occupations High School in the Bronx, which is a partner with Montefiore Medical Center, and Energy Tech High School in Queens, in partnership with National Grid and Con Edison. Next year, three more will join the ranks—two in Manhattan and one in Queens—working with Microsoft, MSFT -6.09% New York-Presbyterian Hospital, SAP and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
The schools will meet the same Common Core standards as other city schools, but Mr. Walcott said bundling in a free associate degree “is a real game changer” for students. They can then choose to go on to apply for a four-year degree or enter the job market.
CUNY Interim Chancellor William Kelly, said this program gives kids a “significant head start.”
“It’s a remarkable leg up for our students,” he said, “and I would argue, a remarkably good thing for the corporations who are involved in these programs.”
Competition is fierce for spots in these schools—there are numerous applicants for every seat available, officials said. “A successful school with successful buzz, has a high demand ratio in terms of students who want to go there,” said Mr. Walcott.
There are nine specific entry level jobs P-Tech students will be qualified for, including positions in technology support and software development, said Stanley Litow, IBM IBM +0.71% Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. He added that students who begin work with IBM will also be eligible for tuition reimbursement if they pursue a higher degree.
Jahanara Begum’s 15-year-old son, Rahat Mahmud, attends P-Tech. Ms. Begum, 47 years old, said her son, will graduate the program early, in four years. He then plans on earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees.