Editorial: Bring back vocational classes in high schools

MechanicMajorVocational tracks in high school can now be discussed in history classes — because they seem to be a thing of the past.

However, like our Founding Fathers, who took lessons from history in shaping our nation, those who are creating educational policies today should take a long look at the past and reimplement vocational classes across the country.

Vocational classes, like auto shop, offer students the opportunity to learn a specific skill set before they leave high school. Why has this disappeared?

It’s becoming more important than ever to have a college degree — something our society values. But we must realize college is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Some will flourish in college, but others won’t. Allowing students to learn a trade skill in high school can allow them to skip a potentially costly waste of time in terms of their career.

The classes that focus on skills, such as woodworking or auto shop, are no longer considered valuable options. For example, the national budget presented by President Barack Obama in 2012 decreased funding for vocational education from $1,272 million to $1,008 million.

A contributing factor to vocational education’s decline is the desire to produce well-rounded students. But again, this is based on the assumption that all students will leave high school and go to college—a solution that doesn’t work for everyone.

Vocational classes offer several benefits to students.

Students who take vocational classes are most likely ready to go into the workforce when they graduate. Such classes allow students to leave high school with the ability to be a skilled worker. These students might not need to attend college; they’ve got what they need. Even if they do decide to attend college, the vocational classes have given them a backup in case a college education does not work for them.

It’s a belief that higher paying jobs come with a college education, but plenty of millionaires make it without one. Take late Apple innovator Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are also billionaires who dropped out of college.

Clearly, the assumption that a decent living comes only with college is a myth. Furthermore, students who don’t go to college don’t have to face the drawback of mounting debt from expensive student loans. They can begin with a clean slate of credit, having learned a skill set that will pay the bills.

While the push for more college education grows stronger, people seem to forget that there are jobs on the market that don’t necessarily require a college education. Jobs that don’t require a college education and only require a vocational training are not “less than” or “worse than” jobs that do require a college education. Honest work is honest work, and there is no one job that is perfect for everyone. Why waste time and money on college if it’s not the right path for you or won’t benefit your career?

That’s not to say we doubt the value of a college education — we appreciate ours and are willing to work to secure a degree, but we recognize that what works for us won’t work for everyone.

Investing in vocational classes is investing in the future of Americans. We need skilled labor. Why aren’t we willing to implement the training to get it?

If anything, think of vocational classes in terms of math — they need to multiply.