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Vocational Education Can Reduce the Dropout Rate

With the end of the school year just around the corner, it's a good time to ask why more students aren't going to be getting their high school diplomas.  I'm not advocating the use of credit recovery and other fraudulent strategies to increase the number of graduates.  Instead, I'm talking about vocational training ("German Apprenticeships in South Carolina," The Wall Street Journal, May 5).

Specifically, I have reference to Germany's model.  Realistically recognizing that some students have neither the aptitude for, nor interest in, going to a four-year university, Germany allows students in junior and senior high school to opt for a dual system.  Those who choose a vocational track attend vocational classes one or two days a week and spend the rest of the week completing an apprenticeship in their chosen field. 

A little more than half choose this path.  As a result, the dropout rate is a fraction of ours, and the country has the lowest rate of youth unemployment in Europe.  The supply of well trained workers has been a boon for the German economy.  Most importantly, in my view, is that students find great personal satisfaction from their work, which in turn contributes to society.

Vocational education is treated entirely differently in the U.S.  As a result, there is a growing worker shortage that threatens economic growth ("When the Welders Came to Capitol Hill," The Wall Street Journal, May 15). Skilled technicians can earn a solid middle-class salary with benefits.  The problem is that they are hard to find.  Higher wages can't solve the problem if not enough workers exist. That's where high school counselors come in.  They need to explain the benefits of a vocational curriculum.

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