Dana Goldstein looks at efforts to retool and expand vocational education, now called career and technical education, in West Virginia in a front-page story for the New York Times.
Long one of the poorest states, it is now leading the way in turning vocational education from a Plan B for underachieving students into what policy makers hope will be a fuel source for the state’s economic revival.
Simulated workplaces, overseen by teachers newly trained in important state industries like health, coal and even fracking, are now operating in schools across the state. Students punch a time clock, are assigned professional roles like foreman or safety supervisor, and are even offered several vacation days of their choice in addition to regular school breaks. (Many take time off during deer hunting season.)
“West Virginia’s heavy push on vocational education comes as leaders of both parties have talked about making it a priority, a shift from the No Child Left Behind era of education reform, in which college for everyone was often the goal,” Goldstein notes.
In a piece published earlier this summer, Eric Hanushek and Ludger Woessman caution that “In a knowledge-based economy, early employment gains with vocational training may lead to later problems when specific skills become obsolete and workers lack the ability to adjust to a changed economic environment.”
— Education Next