Today’s students, tomorrow’s jobs

(Academic) college isn’t for everyone, wrote Fordham’s Mike Petrilli in Slate. Some students who are failing in college might succeed if they pursued job training, he argued.

It sparked a huge response. Many argued that students need college prep and career prep.
Others accused Petrilli of “the soft bigotry of low expectations” for low-income and minority students.

“Community college ready” should be the minimum goal for all cognitively able students, responded Sandy Kress, an aide to George W. Bush. That means high school graduates should be able to take academic or vocational classes at a community college without the need for remediation.

Kress “prays” that “CTE advocates make these courses as rigorous and valued as they promise they will, and not just a dodge for them to avoid teaching and learning in the so-called old fashioned courses.” In the past, dead-end vocational education has been a “trap” for low-income and minority kids, writes Kress.

Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs in Metropolitan America, edited by Penn Professor Laura Perna, looks at the gap between school and the workforce.

Check out “Nancy Hoffman’s excellent chapter on career and technical education,” advises Liz McInerny on Education Gadfly. Education and training for a specific calling  would keep students in school and on track for decent jobs, Hoffman writes.

About Joanne


  1. I made this comment 4 days ago under the “Gainful Employment” post but it bears repeating here. It refutes the idea that alternative credentials are limiting

    Perusing the Census site, I found this recent report on alternative educational credentials released in January:

    “These alternative credentials include professional certifications, licenses and educational certificates. The fields of these professional certifications and licenses were wide-ranging and include business/finance management, nursing, education, cosmetology and culinary arts, among others.

    “The report shows that, in general, these alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings. Among full-time workers, the median monthly earnings for someone with a professional certification or license only was $4,167, compared with $3,433 for one with an educational certificate only; $3,920 for those with both types of credentials; and $3,110 for people without any alternative credential.”

    These alternative credentials are predominately provided by community colleges and vo/tech schools. Women hold more of the alternative credentials at the Bachelor and above academic levels but men in the high school or less.

  2. From the excerpts, there seem to be 2 things that are not mutually exclusive. High school graduates should be ready for CC classes without remediation. That doesn’t mean that they have to take them. For many students, CC training would be a good idea – either to learn a trade, or to take some classes that would help them learn to manage a business.

    College or tech training without a plan or a goal seems like a waste. Students may not be sure what they want to do, but a rough idea of being a scientist, plumber, teacher, IT worker, etc, could help them have some idea of what kind of training they should pursue. Maybe they want to be a carpenter, and so take a few classes about how to set up a business and deal with taxes. Either way, they need to be prepared for at least CC classes so that they can take the courses they need.

  3. You can learn many things at a community college, including HVAC, medical technology, sonography, dental asst, etc.

    However, most of these programs (esp. the ones on the medical side) are limited entry/space, and the requirements just to apply usually will mean that most students may not possess the needed math, writing, and science skills to succeed in these programs.

    Unfortunately, remediation has become the rule, rather than the exception at many colleges these days.


  4. Over 40 years ago, my late FIL was the principal of a vo-tech HS which prepared kids to get decent jobs right out of HS; cosmetologists, sheet-metalworkers, tool & die makers, auto mechanics, Licensed Practical Nurses, carpenters, secretaries etc. They had solid real-world math and literacy skills too; enough to enable them to take CC classes for further learning. They took academic classes, too, like their classmates in the college-prep track, but the math and English were less academic and more related to their specific field. Why can’t we offer today’s kids the same opportunity? I’ve talked to many students at the local cosmetology school, and to a number of medical/nursing assistants, admin assistants and mechanics who would have loved to have had that in HS.

    • I should have added that, about 20 years ago, my DH was lucky to have a secretary from that HS and she was outstandingly competent. His office was hosting a large national conference and simultaneously prepping for routine re-accreditation, in addition to the usual department paperwork, – and she handled all of the necessary paperwork without blinking an eye; everything properly spelled, formatted ,without error and in record time. Unfortunately, she left the job too soon – to move back home.