Bryan Caplan  

Confessions of a Voc-Tech Teacher

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Email from a reader, who asked to remain anonymous...

My name is [redacted] and I'm in my 3rd decade of teaching vocational education or Career Technical Education (CTE) in [redacted] CA.  

I was very pleased to hear about your position about our educational system on the Fox Business Channel this am. I wanted to bring to your attention that there is no functional pipeline for attracting vocational education teachers into public education. When shop instructors retire or transfer as I've done more often than not the that shop class will be closed. This is due in part to the state of California making the requirements too difficult to attract industry professionals into education and also the decline of CTE teacher training programs at the universities.  Furthermore, professionals who do enter education from industry as I did quickly discover that they are not supported as much as their academic colleagues which mainly support the college track. As a result, trade schools have been started that charge students lofty tuition to be trained in plumbing, mechanics, electrical, and so on to fill the need for vocational education. 

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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Robert D. writes:

As someone who never had the option of a shop class in school, I've always wondered if I would have been happier working a trade rather than siting in a cubicle.

Kevin Dick writes:

I was a naturally good student, got into good undergrad and grad programs, and have always done "knowledge work".

But I took advanced shop classes and enjoyed them. Both my son and daughter now have as well. In shop, there are real consequences and tangible outcomes.

We could do worse than have _everyone_ take more shop and less academics.

Joseph Calhoun writes:

When my daughter was working on her MFA at U of Chicago a few years back her favorite class was essentially a wood shop class. And it has paid far more dividends than the MFA.

JK Brown writes:

I recently came across an excellent innovation in vo-tech training. Online instruction to prepare for the time in the lab. It offers many advantages in that the lectures can be viewed and re-viewed at leisure and when convenient to the student and also, mis-speaking or labeling by the instructor is proofed and corrected. All that remains is some hands-on time in the "lab". Best of all this could be in a building or room at a company or in an industrial park instead of off at some inconvenient college campus. This would also leave the building available for use by local companies for company specific training.

The vetted online lecture also opens up the possibility of using the retired craftsman who isn't so much a talker to do what they've done for years, provide hand-on training.

Here is an excellent youtube set up in electrical-industrial control. The creator has even gotten a NSF grant.

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