In today’s modern society, life after graduation is certainly one of the greatest puzzles of life. Because of the extreme job competition, many underprivileged students who were not able to continue their education up to college may end up looking for a job as their primary source of income. There are companies who offer jobs that specialize in operating heavy machinery and doing jobs which are related in everyday living such as cooks, computer technician, carpentry, artisans and many more. There are also high school students who work part time in order to earn money for their education by working in fast food chains which requires knowledge in food industry. Others seek employment on government establishments doing clerical jobs for a payment of a few dollars whilst there are other students who do two part time jobs at the same time. In this paper, I would like to draw the attention of the readers about the importance of teaching vocational and technical education amongst high school students as part of their training after their graduation. I would also like to prove that teaching them with relevant knowledge will help them in coping on life’s changing perspective. Furthermore, the skills and knowledge that they will gain will enhance their competitiveness and increase their market value in the future.
Life after High School
Graduating from high school is one of the most important factors that drive students in finishing their education. Many high school students envision doing their ‘dream jobs’. These so-called dream jobs are jobs offered by respectable companies who offer bigger salaries. Because of this, high school students are becoming more motivated in achieving their diploma for the promise of security in later life. However, due to financial reasons, most American families cannot afford to send their children to college and even worse, there are some students who cannot finish their high school education due to poverty and lack of secure source of finances. According to the data presented by DeNavas-Walt, Proctor and Smith in their statistical study entitled: ‘Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012’ showed the statistical findings regarding low income families. Right after the economic recession from the years 2008 and 2009 showed a drastic deficit on their income which continued up to 2012. All races who live in the United States only earned an annual income of $51,017 which is considered the average annual income (p.5). However, in some circumstances such as unexpected emergencies like hospitalization, this bracket of income is not helpful at all. For most families whose annual income falls below the given bracket, many of them fail to do the responsibility of sending their children to school and even neglecting health insurance application. Based on the data gathered by National Bureau of Economic Research Cambridge Massachusetts as of June 2009, the economic recession happened which caused a greater effect on low income families who are more dependent on their jobs (as cited from DeNavas-Walt, Proctor and Smith, p.31). The result of the financial stability of many American families led to the establishment of college bound scholarships which guarantee the students’ chances of entering into college despite their financial incapability; but in order to obtain the scholarships, a student must in turn obtain good grades and a high academic rating for them to qualify. News reporter Linda Shaw from The Seattle Times official website stated that Washington’s College Bound Scholarship Programs was indeed a helpful option for high school graduates who wanted a decent college education based on the Education Research and Data Center.
“The center reports that more than 78 percent of low-income students enrolled in the scholarship program graduated on time in 2012, compared with roughly 65 percent of all low-income students in the state” (Shaw, n.p).
Furthermore, the majority of the high school students who were not able to qualify for the scholarships offered by both government and private institutions end up applying either as a part time worker whilst studying or a full time worker in some popular companies such as McDonalds. Data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics in 2011 showed 28 percent high school students work part time for 20 hours per week or less; whilst only 1 percent attend full time jobs. The result of the decline in financial income of many American household encouraged the students to do manual labor to continue their education in high school and eventually in college. Many educational institutions from all over the country now offers technical and vocational subjects that teach high school students about the possible jobs they might encounter in real life. These knowledge aims to help students in developing the minds of high school students about managing their finances and tax responsibilities, educating them other ways in obtaining sources of income such as cooking, industrial arts, machinery and technical education. The life after high school is not an easy step as other people believe; it is a path full of challenges and changes which shape the personality of an individual. Though it is considered a path of independence; likewise it should be a responsibility of both parents and high schools to educate students about the skills that they will actually use in real life situations. Aside from traditional subjects which develop rational and preserve the knowledge of the past, nowadays it is better to teach students other knowledge and develop their skills to become a more productive individual and citizen in the future.
Career and Technical Education in American High Schools
“It seems like such an obvious idea. Organize high school to maximize the number of students who graduate ready for college, work, and citizenship” (cited from Clark et al. p. 2).
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Company used the sentences above as the primary tagline for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This non-government, private organization is probably the most commonly known due to its founder. This foundation is more of an institution who helps individuals in reducing higher poverty, whilst aiming to enhance the future of students by offering scholarships. Historical trends regarding the educational attainment in the United States was further studied in order to gather empirical data to determine the percentage of college student population versus the high school students. Ryan and Siebens, whose study centered on the American education and unemployment, proved workers who have completed their education up to college tend to have higher income salaries than those who don’t. Statistically speaking, median earnings starting from $18,000 annually are earned by workers who were not able to complete their high school education. On the other hand, employees who had a bachelor’s degree or a high educational attainment earn an estimated range of $60,000 per year whilst workers with a regular high school diploma can earn an income of $27,000 annually. Thus, based on these income ranges alone, the salary of an individual matters a lot especially on companies who rely on ‘market competitiveness’ of their employees to do their work more productively. It is also a key factor that the additional learning from CTE’s adds to the student’s potential and even a supporting factor of obtaining their dream job and salary. While some people may think that combining vocational education with traditional subjects, the policy of teaching CTE subjects in American high schools have been implemented to help students in preparing for college. Paris and Huske once stated in their essay, Critical Issue: Developing an Applied and Integrated Curriculum that skills are required in order to be successful in future job applications; these skills which is a combination of academic and workplace skills makes it possible for a high school student to stay in the competition even without a college degree. Paris and Huske argue the importance of acquiring knowledge on CTE or Career and Technical Education, because teaches students to multitask and managing their time wisely.
“Changes in the workplace brought about by technology, downsizing, and restructuring have led to the realization that students need different skills to be successfully employed today than they did ten years ago” (Paris and Huske n.p).
In addition, Schmidt, Finch, Faulkner and Kandies (1995), also supported the policy to teach CTE subjects as extra-curricular activities to high schools students aside from the traditional subjects that they learn from the school. They emphasized that companies needs people with technical skills, aside from academic proficiency backed by the talent in solving logical problems based on day-to-day life whilst having a natural charisma in communicating with varied people in a diverse working environment (as cited from Paris and Huske n.p). Because many high school students engage in doing part time jobs whilst studying, Marie Anderson also pointed out on her article entitled, What Are The Effects Of Part Time Jobs On High School Students published on Everyday Life-Global Post, is that allowing students to experience a more ‘hands-on’ approach on the things they will encounter later in their lives will help them to survive the challenges that lies before them. The purpose of CTE’s also teaches basic economic lessons such as budgeting and ways of avoiding debts and a few basic rules on taxation, which is needed especially on employees (Anderson n.p). Students who are well-trained in managing their money can make right financial decisions in the future. Additionally, because of the simple budgeting and business lessons, they will become more productive by engaging into part-time jobs to earn money to support their education and their families. Aside from this, it will also teach students how to spend their money wisely as well as to make right investments. Furthermore, the courses such as cooking and nutrition aim to develop and educate the students about the risks of obesity in later life. On the other hand, according to the statistics presented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Library Medicine in the United States noted that obesity is one of the most common problems of young, teenagers and adult Americans. However, according to their study in 2000 there was an increase of almost 5 percent to the teenage population who are at risk in becoming obese. The obesity factor is more common nowadays due to the lifestyle of most American youths who spend a lot of their time sitting and playing games instead of going out and do exercise. Aside from obesity, improper nutritional information may also lead to chances of acquiring cardiac arrest as the fats continue to accumulate inside the arteries. To avoid these problems, high schools are now teaching cooking, nutrition and dietetics as a preliminary line of combating these illnesses. By educating the American high school students, they can learn valuable information and at the same time, cook meals in accordance with the prescribed daily intake.
Although the career technical education system may seem difficult at first; having an advantage on knowledge related to the needs of the labor industry will be helpful to those high school students who seek employment right after graduation. The Career Technical Education is a system wherein students were taught skills and provided with information of the in-demand jobs in line with their interests.
“According to the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education, “Virtually every high school student takes at least one career and technical education course, and one in four students takes three or more courses in a single program area.”3 It is not possible to say precisely how many of these students are in traditional, separate vocational programs, and how many are combining CTE with preparation for college. High Schools That Work is involved with more than 1,200 sites, 4 and it is estimated that two or three thousand career academies now operate in U.S. high schools.5 Many students combine college-preparatory coursework with CTE on their own, without any programmatic support” (Clark et al. p. 3).
The purpose of CTE’s aside from teaching students with skills needed by the society, it also enables students’ to be motivated to finish their high school education to gain higher salary payouts. Career Technical Education is composed of subjects designed to attract the interests of students and learn a hands-on training after spending grueling hours of poring over their textbooks. Notable examples of CTE subjects offered in American high schools include: clerical jobs such as office assistant, plumbing and electrical services, photography, therapist and cosmetology, fashion and hair styling subjects, computer technician and cooking and auto mechanic services. Other subjects such as foreign language training are also offered due to the growth of BPO or Business Process Outsourcing led to the influx of many different international companies who came to do business in the United States. Although language courses may seem not a matter of importance, nonetheless it is a competitive advantage for an employee especially in an undergraduate worker the knowledge of other language because this will put them into a higher market value and a possible opportunity in career growth. Although learning the traditional subjects can increase their academic competitiveness in college, underlying factors about the finances of the students should be observed. Indeed, the right to be educated should be a necessity in all Americans but this is not always true in the real world. The effects of poverty and unemployment rates on many counties in the United States proved to be a major reason on the deprivation of the right of receiving a decent education on poor American families. Going back to the study made by Ryan and Siebens, on the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 starting from January 2008, the study of unemployment rates on high school graduates is low, earning a 5.8 percent compared to the students who do not have a high school diploma which showed an 8.7 percent. Continuing the study in 2009, the result of economic recession greatly affected both parties; as such the increase in unemployment rate showed mostly on people who were not able to continue their high school education, earning them a 15.5 percent, contrast to those who had their high school education completed and had a CTE certification which resulted to 8.5 percent both happened in March 2009. By the start of January 2010, the rates of unemployment continued and increased as many companies were still recovering from the ill effects of the recession and most of the preferred highly skilled individuals who possess either a bachelor’s or any degree higher. The unemployment rates for high school students who lacked diploma and CTE certificates gradually increased dramatically on its highest by 7.3 percent in January 2009 and 17.6 percent in February 2010. On the other hand, students who completed their high school education received a 10.2 percentage share in January 2009 whilst obtaining a 10.4 percentage on February 2009. Upon the entry of 2010, students who failed to complete their high school education were the ones, who composed a part of the unemployment census of January 2010 with a share of 16.3 percent; in the contrary, students who were able to finish their high school education only obtained a 10.2 percentage. By February 2010, the percentage of 17.2 was obtained by high school under graduates whilst the 11 percent was given to the high school graduates. The cycle of ups and downs on the unemployment rates continued up to December 2010. For high school graduates with a career technical education certificate, it was good news because it showed a decrease in the level of unemployment, earning a share of 9 percent compared to the people who did not have a complete high school education; their unemployment rates became even higher with a share of 14.1 percent. Although the recession affected the American society by robbing off the possible jobs for prospective employees, nonetheless the people who had a bachelor’s or a doctorate degree did not suffered the consequences. Therefore, it is relevant for the high schools to teach students the information and necessary skills needed for them to become one of the productive citizens of the United States. Not only it will help them land a job easily, but in return the skills they acquired through the CTE System will help them to avoid becoming a part of statistics of unemployed individuals. The certificate earned from studying a career technical education subjects can help them in choosing the right courses in college. Furthermore, after their high school graduation, these certificates can be used in job applications as a guarantee that a certain individual has passed and trained in due accordance to the criterions mandated by the Labor Industry. Teaching high school students with relevant knowledge aside from Science, Math, History and other traditional subjects will help them to survive the challenges of the real world. Moreover, the knowledge they will gain will be a possible increase in their market value or salary increase and possible regularization.
California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger supported the policy of teaching high school students with knowledge relevant in the real world. In his opening remarks delivered on a summit concerning the career technical education proposal in March 13, 2007, he stated that: “[C]areer tech education, we know, addresses two very important issues; it fulfills the needs of the workforce and also it fulfills the needs of the students by giving them multiple pathways to success. A lot of students, it’s very clear, have said that they are dropping out because they don’t find anything interesting in school, or they have no interest in going to a four-year college. So, because they don’t have an alternative, they are discouraged and they drop out. By expanding career tech education we are giving them options, options to become mechanics, or become nurses, or carpenters, electricians, to become welders, or chefs, or lab technicians, computer technicians, and the list goes on and on and on. Those are all very important professions” (as cited from Clark et al. p. 5).
As a conclusion, the CTE or Career Technical Education is also an important knowledge to learn aside from the traditional subjects. It must be a requirement for all students to undergo training and be educated under CTE system to help them to become productive individuals and to lessen the poverty rates in the United States. By providing other options for study, high school institutions can help students in pursuing their dream jobs. On the other hand, it will also serve as an option for them to look for jobs in line with their skills and interest even without a college or university diploma.
Anderson, Marie. 'What Are The Effects Of Part Time Jobs On High School Students?'. Everyday Life - Global Post. N. p., 2014. Web. 4 Jun. 2014.
Clark, Patricia et al. Can Combining Academic And Career-Technical Education Improve High School Outcomes In California?. 1st ed. Santa Barbara: University of California, Berkeley, 2007. Web. 4 Jun. 2014.
DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Bernadette Proctor, and Jessica Smith. Income, Poverty, And Health Insurance Coverage In The United States: 2012. 1st ed. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2013. Web. 4 Jun. 2014.
Jamison, Dean T. Priorities In Health. 1st ed. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2006. Print.
Paris, Kathleen, and Lynne Huske. 'Critical Issue: Developing An Applied And Integrated Curriculum'. Ncrel.org. N. p., 1998. Web. 4 Jun. 2014.
Ryan, Camille, and Julie Siebens. Educational Attainment In The United States 2009. 1st ed. Washington D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau, 2012. Web. 4 Jun. 2014.