10/05/10 — Other choices: Vocational programs offer alternatives for students -- and skills

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Other choices: Vocational programs offer alternatives for students -- and skills

The first choice in any academic program should be to make sure students leave school with the reading, writing and arithmetic skills they need to succeed in the world.

So, if there have to be stricter standards to achieve that goal -- then so be it.

But those who criticize vocational education programs and say they are not preparing students are simply wrong.

Vocational education programs offer the same access to academic skills that a high school graduate would need to secure a career, they just attach those skills to a trade.

So, in other words, you might learn how to put down a brick wall in the masonry class, but you also learn how to mix mortar (chemistry and measurements) and how to create a strong wall (math and science).

And if you are learning what it takes to be a diesel mechanic, you must also know how to communicate in written and verbal form. Otherwise, how can you talk with a client about what is wrong with his or her truck -- or prepare a bid for a company to get it fixed? All vocational education programs also require reading skills -- how else can you read the instructions for the task at hand or know how to look up a part or a procedure in a handbook.

The trades learned in vocational education are also sought-after skills that can lead to good-paying jobs for those for whom college might be more of an afterthought than a goal right out of high school.

Managed properly, vocational programs offer students the chance to combine the academic skills they will need in life with a trade.

Keeping a child in an academic program where he or she is not engaged or successful defeats the purpose of education and often creates a drop-out.

This is a chance to give a student a goal, a future.

And that really is what matters.

Published in Editorials on October 5, 2010 10:46 AM