Erasing the stigma

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Karla Comayagua

Nurses, plumbers, and computer programmers are all vocational careers- jobs that require technical skills. These skills are not necessarily taught in high school, which is why many students choose to enroll in a vocational school, or trade school.

These schools offer basic post-secondary education and career programs designed to quickly prepare graduates for the work force. Some vocational schools are offered in community colleges or at private institutions.

Aside from helping students find a job in the competitive workforce, vocational schools also provide an opportunity to explore new passions or interests. This gives students who don’t excel in traditional academic areas a chance to prosper somewhere else.

With all of the benefits that vocational schools provide, it is puzzling as to why there is so much negative stigma surrounding these programs. Part of what makes up that stigma is the idea that students pursue an interest in vocational careers because they do poorly in school. This is an inaccurate assumption because many vocational careers, like respiratory therapists, legal assistants, or radiology technicians, require workers to have more than just basic knowledge.

Also, vocational institutions are usually convenient for students. Some courses are online but if a student’s career interest requires him or her to learn in a hands-on setting, there are schools that provide students with a more interactive learning experience.

This exhibits another reason why vocational education should be celebrated. It maximizes students’ convenience and allows them to choose how they learn. This accommodation is not usually applied in a traditional school, making vocational institutions the preferable choice.

Another misconception is that all vocational careers are “blue collar” jobs (jobs relating to manual labor like construction workers or miners). This is incorrect because many vocational institutions provide jobs in an office or administrative setting.

By criticizing students who attend vocational schools to pursue careers in plumbing or carpentry because they are considered “blue collar” jobs, people underestimate the value of these workers. These types of jobs require special skills and talent that not many people have.

MIT professor Paul Osterman told USA Today that there will be a “tremendous demand” for middle-skill workers as baby boomers retire. This will open several job opportunities for people pursuing vocational careers.

Thus, choosing vocational education comes with many advantages, which is why it is important that people overcome their disapproval for vocational classes so students can feel secure once they enter the workforce.

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