SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

November 16, 2012

Vocational education isn’t what it used to be

If you graduated high school before 1990, your perception of vocational education is undoubtedly out-of-date.

No longer is this just an alternative pathway for kids who are not on a college track, nor is it an academic track that prepares students for entry-level jobs that require only a high school diploma. It is not an environment where academic expectations are low and postsecondary education is not an option.

Allow us to introduce you to Career-Technical Education, an academically rigorous course of study designed to prepare students for technical careers or college-level classes, both technical and academic. CTE provides hands-on, applied learning experiences that build academic knowledge, problem-solving skills, general employment skills and specific career skills that lead to industry credentialing.

CTE is available to Salem students at North Shore Technical High School in Middleton and Salem High School, where there are three vocational programs (auto tech, electrical and culinary arts) and many elective courses, such as carpentry, metal working and child development.

Students sign up for these courses for a variety of reasons:

An opportunity for hands-on, practical experience in a field that may lead to a career, postsecondary education or just useful life skills.

An opportunity to explore different career paths before entering college or the workforce.

An opportunity to learn a skill or trade that will provide them with a job while pursuing a postsecondary education.

As city budgets tighten and as we see the expansion plans for North Shore Tech and the success of its students, we might be tempted to question the need for CTE at Salem High, where there is an overlap in programs. In Salem, approximately 100 students per year apply to North Shore Tech, and 60 don’t get accepted. Others, including immigrants and transfers, arrive at Salem High after freshman year and don’t have a chance to apply to the regional school. That leaves a sizable number of students at the high school who want vocational education options.

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