Vocational School? Really?

I follow Mike Rowe, the Dirty Jobs guy, on Facebook. He’s gotten himself quite the following by arguing that vocational training is critical to the future of our country, and yet we tend to want every student to go to college instead. He has an interesting argument, as those service jobs as plumbers, painters, electricians, etc., will certainly never be outsourced. As it stands now, you can certainly make a great living in those jobs, and I don’t necessarily think they can be automated away. (Maybe, and this may be the biggest hole in the argument I can see.)

It always reads to me that the Mike Rowe types want kids to pick their paths early and avoid college. Instead of something that drastic, which forces kids to make major life decisions when they don’t know shit from shinola, how about adding a 5th year of high school? Each year EVERY student should be required to take a vocational field with the rest of their studies. The first 2 years could be some general vocational work, where you do basic stuff across the board. Change oil, build a toolbox, bake a cake, sew on a button, etc. If a 3rd year student realizes that the vocational track is the way she wants to go, she can opt to pursue more advanced vocational stuff in her next couple of years. If she hates it, she can still pursue AP or other advanced classes.

Another thing, notice that I said she could pursue AP if she hated vocational stuff. I do think the “default” should be to do the vocational studies first. There are tons of people out there making decent money doing trade work, and the data backs up the fact that skilled jobs are left open because there are no young people qualified to do them. Hell, I work in a field where most of the people I know are self-taught, or came through the ranks learning the trade the hard way. I did my time on a helpdesk and doing basic IT administration work…my math degree got me in the door, but I didn’t come into this job knowing a darn thing about IT.

For those who go on to the pre-college track, the extra high school wouldn’t replace the AP curriculum, but supplement it. Why shouldn’t accountants know how to change their own oil? Why shouldn’t a doctor be able to bake a freakin’ cake? Hell, if you can’t sew on a button, I’ll be damned if I want you stitching up a cut in the ER!

Written on March 20, 2017