Preparing for the future

Vocational schools should not be seen as subpar


Every day, at almost exactly 11 a.m., I leave to go to the Central Nine Career Center. Central Nine is a vocational school that is partnered with SHS to offer qualifying students an opportunity to receive training in a certain field or craft. For example, I’m in the Computer Tech Support “career pathway,” and as a result I’m going to earn two industry certifications by the end of the year. I chose to go to Central Nine as a way to further my education, even though not everyone views going to a trade school as something that qualifies as an educational advancement.

According to the U.S. Department of Education Consolidated Annual Report, Indiana only reported 165,205 students participating in Career and Technical Education, or CTE, in 2015-2016. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there were 668,916 people between the age of 18 and 24 in Indiana in 2015. That’s a little less than a quarter of eligible Hoosiers being enrolled in a CTE course.

From personal experience, I feel that some may view a vocational school as being the place where the dumb kids go, but this is not the case. Sure, some of the kids going aren’t college-bound, but that’s a personal choice, not because they don’t have the opportunity. Vocational schools not only offer a way to receive training in career paths such as heating and cooling, construction and mechanics, but also telecommunications, information technology and visual design, all of which can lead straight into the workforce and offer graduates a way to earn money for themselves or their family. Some schools, such as SHS, foot almost the entire bill for their partnered vocational school. Students sometimes only have to pay exam fees, or in some cases just the general student fees.

Exposure to these career fields is beneficial to students. Using time in high school to see some of these professions firsthand and gain a little knowledge and experience will help students make their mind up when it comes down to selecting a college or other post-secondary option. Students may be exposed to career possibilities they have never even considered to be something they are interested in and end up liking it a lot by sampling a year in the industry, and they can solidify choices if they are already familiar with whatever career they plan to pursue.

Nine central Indiana schools feed students into the career center. In fact, most schools in Marion County offer their students an opportunity in some form to achieve certification or training in a career pathway. This newfound focus on career pathways being offered to students isn’t actually all that new. These courses have existed before, but I think that they’re becoming more relevant than ever to the general student, not just the prior stereotype of the struggling student with no other options. With college becoming more expensive by the day, students will do what they can to cut costs, whether that is cutting college out of the picture and going straight for the workforce or taking classes to knock out maybe a year or two (if they are lucky) off their bachelor’s degree.

These students are no lesser than others. They aren’t dumb, nor are they lazy. These students are hardworking and deserve to be seen as equals.