In the United States, vocational education varies from state to state. The majority of postsecondary technical and vocational training is provided by proprietary (privately owned) career schools. About 30 percent of all credentials in career training are provided by two-year community colleges, which also offer courses transferable to four-year universities; other programs are offered through military technical training or government-operated adult education centers. Several states operate their own institutes of technology which are on an equal accreditational footing with other state universities.

Historically, middle schools and high schools have offered vocational courses such as home economics, wood and metal shop, typing, business courses, drafting, and auto repair, though schools have put more emphasis on academics for all students because of standards based education reform. School-to-Work is a series of federal and state initiatives to link academics to work, sometimes including gaining work experience on a job site without pay.

National programs

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Federal involvement is principally carried out through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. Accountability requirements tied to the receipt of federal funds under this Act help provide some overall leadership. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education within the US Department of Education also supervises activities funded by the Act, along with grants to individual states and other local programs.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest private association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. Its members include CTE teachers, administrators, and researchers.


There is however an issue with vocational or "career" schools who have national accreditation instead of regional accreditation. Regionally accredited schools are predominantly academically oriented, non-profit institutions. Nationally accredited schools are predominantly for-profit and offer vocational, career or technical programs. Every college has the right to set standards and refuse to accept transfer credits. However, if a student has gone to a nationally accredited school it may be particularly difficult to transfer credits (or even credit for a degree earned) if he or she then applies to a regionally accredited college. Some regionally accredited colleges have general policies against accepting any credits from nationally accredited schools, others are reluctant to because regional schools feel that national schools academic standards are lower than their own or they are unfamiliar with the particular school. Students who are planning to transfer to a regionally accredited school after studying at a nationally accredited school should ensure that they will be able to transfer the credits before attending the nationally accredited school. There have been lawsuits regarding nationally accredited schools who led prospective students to believe that they would have no problem transferring their credits to regionally accredited schools, most notably Florida Metropolitan University and Crown College, Tacoma, Washington. Schools which have been targeted but have not been found guilty of this include University of Phoenix and Vatterott College. The U.S. Department of Education has stated, however, that its criteria for recognition of accreditors "do not differentiate between types of accrediting agencies, so the recognition granted to all types of accrediting agencies â€" regional, institutional, specialized, and programmatic â€" is identical." However the same letter states that "the specific scope of recognition varies according to the type of agency recognized."

Job retraining

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In many states, vocational training is available to workers who have been previously laid off or whose previous employer is defunct; such training was expanded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Though results have been for the most part inconclusive, job retraining programs have been noted to retain a positive effect on employee morale. Even in cases of displacement, those who underwent job retraining programs exhibited a more positive outlook on their circumstances than those employees who did not partake in job retraining programs. Several studies have also suggested that in cases of layoffs, employees who remain with the company exhibit positive morale and are more motivated in their work environment if the layoffs are handled effectively by the company. Job retraining programs in the United States are often criticized for their lack of proper focus on skills that are required in existing jobs. A 2009 study by the United States Department of Labor showed that the difference in earnings and chances of being re-hired between those who had been trained and those who had not been was small.


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In the early years of the twentieth century, a number of efforts were made to imitate German-style industrial education in the United States. Researchers such as Holmes Beckwith described the relationship between the apprenticeship and continuation school models in Germany, and suggested variants of the system that could be applied in an American context. The industrial education system evolved, after large-scale growth following World War I, into modern vocational education. This CTE (Career Technical Education) Historical Timeline illustrates this evolution. 1-Vocational education was initiated with the passing of the Smith-Hughes Act in 1917. This was set up to reduce reliance on foreign trade schools, improve domestic wage earning capacity, reduce unemployment, and protect national security. 2-Around 1947 the George-Barden Act expanded federal support of vocational education to support vocations beyond agriculture, trade, home economics and industrial subjects. 3-Then, The National Defense Education Act signed in 1958 focused on improving education in science, mathematics, foreign languages, and other critical areas especially in areas of national defense. 4-In 1963 The Vocational Education Act added support for vocational education schools for work-study programs and research. 5-1968, the Vocational Education Amendments of 1968, modified the Act and created the National Advisory Council on Vocational Education. 6-The Vocational Education Act was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act in 1984. 7-Amendments in 1990 created the Tech-Prep program designed to coordinate educational activities into a coherent sequence of courses. 8-It was renamed the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006.

CTE provides opportunities to earn certificates and degrees that teach in-demand skills but provide a fast track to the work force. Unlike the former “vocational” programs, CTE programs and degrees are meant to be academic and stackable â€" meaning they are credit bearing and individuals can build on to them through continued education. The 30 programs span from culinary arts and hospitality management to fire science, computer science and nursing. But all offerings include a one-year certificate or two-year degree and with a high-skilled hands-on learning experience. ---8M group 2013

New York City's CTE high schools

In 2008, New York City's Department of Education began to rethink vocational training in high schools. Mayor Bloomberg in his State of the City 2008 address said, "This year, we're going to begin dramatically transforming how high school students prepare for technical careers in a number of growing fields. Traditionally, such career and technical education has been seen as an educational dead-end. We're going to change that. College isn't for everyone, but education is. Building on work by the State Education Department, we'll do what no other public school system in the nation has done- create rigorous career and technical programs that start in high schools and continue in our community colleges" A hallmark of New York City public education is school choice. One category of schools students could choose since the early 20th Century has been the vocational high school. In recent years, several new CTE high schools have been started in New York City or reforged with a new perspective. The idea behind this reconfiguration of CTE is that vocational positions are becoming increasingly sophisticated and a high school degree will not be sufficient training. Future vocational technicians will need college training. The new CTE schools prepare students for success college in addition to providing a vocational certification. A new vocational high school, called City Polytechnic High School, will allow students to take college courses while still in high school. While many high schools in New York City offer college courses as part of their curriculum, City Poly, as the school is known, is the first to offer programs in technical fields. Students will graduate in five years instead of the usual four, with a high school diploma and an associate's degree.

Some New York City Career Technical Education (CTE) schools are--

  • Aviation High School (New York), founded in 1925, known for supplying 12 percent of all of the workers on aircraft worldwide and sending several graduates to high level engineering programs, such as Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Famous alumni include Whitey Ford and Michael Bentt.
  • High School of Art and Design, founded in 1936. Famous alumni include Tony Bennett, Lenny White, and Tom Sito.
  • New York Harbor School, founded in 2003, known for being the first non-U.S. Military organization to be housed on Governors Island in New York City Harbor since the Lenape. The school is also known for sending graduates to Cornell University and other prestigious schools in addition to supplying well-trained workers on New York City's 600 mile waterfront. This school has the second certified SCUBA training program in a high school in the U.S.

See also

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  • Agricultural education
  • Apprenticeship
  • Community college
  • Family and consumer science
  • Finishing school
  • Further education
  • Job Corps
  • Life skills
  • Technical and Further Education (TAFE) (Australia)
  • Training
  • Retraining
  • Vocational school
  • Vocational university
  • Widening participation (UK)



External links

  • US Dept of Education - Office of Vocational and Adult Education

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