Vocational Training Gets Boost as Families Cheer

Republican candidate promises 'centers of excellence' while sharing appreciation of practical skills

Donald Trump’s words at a rally in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, earlier this week were music to the ears of many Americans — and are still reverberating.

The presidential hopeful acknowledged those Americans whose special aptitudes allow them to build or fix almost anything, and promised to support these individuals with opportunities for a first-rate education should he attain the Oval Office.

“With the cost of college today, it’s useful if students can explore all types of careers, so that they’re not two years into college and $100,000 dollars in debt before they realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t what I want to do,'” said one expert.

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“And I must tell you, [among those] going to college, we’d have people who were brilliant, and we’d have other people who weren’t as brilliant in that way but were brilliant, incredible, when it came to fixing a motor, fixing something … They could take it apart blindfolded,” said Trump.

The vocational education landscape has changed drastically in the last 30 years to include much more than craftsmen. “Now known not as ‘vocational training’ but as Career and Technical Education, or CTE, this encompasses not just what you traditionally think of as vocational education, but fields that range from business to IT to health science and cybersecurity,” Jarod Nagurka, the advocacy and public affairs manager for the Association for Career and Technical Education, told LifeZette. “It has considerably broadened to be more than just education that prepares students for a career right out of high school.”

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More than 1 million students in America will graduate from high school this year and go to college. Yet a large percentage of them will never again earn a degree — nearly 40 percent of students in four-year colleges and 70 percent of students in community colleges will not get degrees, according to a report on PBS. But 75 percent of high school students who took CTE classes pursued some sort of post-secondary education, said Nagurka.

In his remarks, Trump promised to create “centers of excellence that will concentrate on vocational training.” His words came as he shared his plans with the enthusiastic Pennsylvania crowd to re-invigorate the Philadelphia Navy Yard as part of a goal to rebuild the Navy to “the great fleet it once was.”

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“To recruit [the] master craftsmen this buildup requires, we will establish centers of excellence at places like the Philadelphia Navy Yard,” Trump vowed.

These centers will no doubt be full of students ready to learn, as some industries are actively looking for new recruits.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top three fastest [growing] require some level of post-secondary education below a bachelor’s degree — associate’s degrees, certificates, or credentials,” said Nagurka. “And all of these job salaries average north of $50,000 dollars a year. Half of all STEM jobs are open to workers with less than a bachelor’s degree, and half of all talent recruiters for Fortune 1000 companies report trouble finding workers with these two-year degrees.”

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Critics of expanded CTE opportunities warn that this can reinforce the idea that not everyone is college material. They worry about repeating the history of “tracking,” or the separating of students into two different “tracks” — college-bound or vocational. This was a common practice up until the mid-1970s.

“CTE is a pathway to the middle class for millions of Americans,” said Nagurka.

But Trump brought a sense of dignity and applauded the concept of trade mastery to individuals who follow a career path different from traditional desk jobs.

“Vocational training is a great thing. We don’t do it anymore,” said Trump. “We don’t do it anymore.”

“We are trying to tackle the stigma that says that if you take a CTE class, then that means you’re going down a certain path,” explained Nagurka. “With the cost of college today, it’s useful if students can explore all types of careers, so that they’re not two years in and $100,000 dollars in debt in college and realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t what I want to do.'”

If Trump becomes president, this will change. In Trump’s America, all aptitudes and skills will be supported and respected.

“CTE is a pathway to the middle class for millions of Americans,” said Nagurka.

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