Educating myself on vocational education

My first week of work this summer introduced me to a little bit of everything going on with the Adulthood Project; however I became very excited about my independent research topic for the project. I have decided to focus on vocational education in high schools; while it is commonly said that these programs have changed and in some cases completely disappeared I wanted to take a historical look at how this aspect of education has changed over time. I am interested to see how this shift happened, how people feel about it and how these changes have changed the transition youth make in attaining an education to working. The process of this education, skill development and ultimately job attainment are aspects connecting this process to that of transitioning into adulthood.

I am excited to find new sources and to gain a better understanding of this topic. Earlier this week, I came across the Journal of Vocational and Technical Education. So far, the articles in these journals have been exciting, addressing this topic in a variety of ways, such as a study focusing specifically on recruiting women and black students for automotive courses. The study looks into what has influenced women and black students to choose the automotive technology field as a career and what keeps them on this path. The study found that a majority of these individuals entered the program right out of high school and by asking the students questions related to success; found that having more mentors and faculty encouragement as well as scholarships for minorities were factors the students attributed to success.

At this point with my individual research, I am focusing on the educational aspect of vocational programs, specifically attempting to map out the changes to vocational education, focuses, and practices through each decade. I am currently reading The Forgotten Half: Non-College Youth in America, which is a report focusing on the school-to-work transition for youth in America. The text, published in 1988, lays out goals for public policy as well as private practice, as well as how this transition faced new challenges in the late 80’s. These challenges are then evaluated by looking at the community as a workplace to help transition youth from school to work, by mapping out having a more effective first-chance system and added-chance training. Overall, the case for additional funding for youth programs is made.

Having the opportunity to go to the library at Northwestern University was amazing. I was able to refine my search terms into subject-specific searches, like searching “vocational education” or “technical education” into databases specifically for history or sociology or education. These searched were helpful in finding sources to provide a more complete picture of vocational training in terms of education requirements, historical relevance and change, and its impact on the youth participating in this transition from high school education to work. The vast education section at Northwestern provided stacks of relevant information. Fortunately, the books I found spanned several decades of information about vocational education. I am particularly excited about the source American Decades, which addresses how America was handling, utilizing, and working with topics in each decade, going back to 1900. Many of these decades discuss education, with a few specifically focusing on vocational education. I am hoping that from here I will find more sources that focus specifically on certain time periods for vocational or career education leading to other sources focusing on specific years and shifts in the education system.