‘Career-relevant’ education, but not vo-tech

Instead of training high school students for specific careers, provide “career-relevant” education, writes Dana Goldstein.

. . . we don’t want to limit working class kids to these often low-skills, low-pay jobs. Instead, we should advocate for more creative curricular connections between school and various places of employment.

At Tech Valley High outside Albany, every student pursues an internship in January, reports The Nation.

This year, one teen shadowed an Amtrak engineer riding the Northeast Corridor; another interned at a local graphic design firm.

The flexibility of Tech Valley’s career curriculum—students can choose an internship that matches their interests, from baking to computer coding to marine biology—goes a long way toward scrubbing away the stigma of CTE as the “slow track” for working-class kids with few options. Every academic subject at Tech Valley is organized around projects intended to introduce teenagers to potential occupations. A history class worked alongside local attorneys to put Christopher Columbus and other European explorers on mock trial for decimating Native American populations. For a unit on pH levels, biology students worked with employees of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to collect Hudson River water samples and test whether the river was safe for swimmers.

Students can see how classroom learning can be used in the world of work, without being limited to a specific occupation, Goldstein writes.


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  1. Thanks for this timely discussion. Whatever you call it–voc ed or technical ed or relevant ed “career-relevant” ed or whatever–we need education opportunities and outcomes for all students–not just those headed for more academics. One size does not fit all. And I loved reading about that French film “Kings of Pastry,” Right on! Vive la France and those French pastries and multiple ways of graduating from school.

  2. “Creative curricular connections”? So they’re going to teach generic job skills? What does that even mean?

    On the bright side, maybe that means they’re going to teach the students good writing, math, and science. Those are pretty good generic job skills.

  3. Richard Aubrey says:

    wahoo. Ref yr last graf. You kidding?
    However, some attempt to figure out how to tell kids whose attention spans and future planning horizons haven’t matured that, if they buckle down now to difficult, boring and seeming irrelevant crap, they’ll make a lot more money over their working lives, unless something happens is probably a good idea.

  4. The CTE courses offered at Macon Area Career Center are being transformed by becoming more academically rigorous and career relevant, which is the essence of “new” vocational education. The curriculum now requires students to demonstrate competence in meeting industry standards, high academic standards, and related general work preparation knowledge, as well as demonstrating skills and attitudes required for employment.