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High School Vocational Courses Need Updating, More Women

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Cornell University recently released new research that demonstrates that women have largely been left out of the vocational education and apprenticeship equation.

Working class communities that implemented vocational high school training reduced both men's and women's likelihood of attending a four-year college, research shows. Many students who take such courses enter the workforce immediately or enroll in a professional apprenticeship or certificate program. The goal of these programs is to equip students with the skills necessary to fill in-demand jobs quickly. However, offering career and technical school options to high school students lead to different outcomes for men and women as they begin looking for jobs.

The study found that there is a greater number of men enrolled in vocational high school programs, compared to women and they had a higher rate of employment upon course completion. Women participating in the programs were less likely to be employed at all and less likely to work in a professional occupation when they were employed. For women who secured high-skilled jobs, the pay was less than their male counterparts. Among 25 to 28-year-old high school graduates in such positions, women made 78 cents for every dollar men made.

A recent bill was introduced to examine the career and technical education law, which has not been updated for over a decade. This law dictates federal support to state and local technical education programs with the aim at placing students in high demand, skilled occupations.

One concerning issue facing career and technical programs for both young men and young women is their lack of availability to students. For example, in Philadelphia's public school system in 2014, 11,000 applications were submitted for its career and technical program, while there was only room for 2,500. In Massachusetts, 4,600 students are on a wait list for similar programs.

The importance of technical education has risen and clearly needs to more effectively incorporate women in the years to come.

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The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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