Tennessee high school graduation rates have been declining over the past few years, and some experts believe providing more opportunities for vocational and tech training could help reverse the trend.
State data show around half of high school seniors are choosing not to attend college or a technical college after graduation.
Chris Sinacola, co-editor of “Hands-On Achievement: Massachusetts’ National Model Vocational-Technical Schools,” said vocational training in high school can guide students into good-paying jobs.
“These tech schools are actually taking their juniors and seniors and placing them with companies in the community, where they’re getting paid real wages for real work,” Sinacola explained. “Very often, this leads directly to a career as soon as they graduate.”
Sincola pointed to research showing the number of jobs paying $55,000 a year or more which do not require a traditional four-year college diploma is on the rise nationwide. Critics of early vocational training argue they can “single-track” individuals who may have otherwise acquired and cultivated a solid academic foundation and multiple skill sets needed to retool and adapt to a fast-changing economy.
Shortages of workers in fields like construction and automotive tech are also contributing to the surge in interest in technical and vocational training.
Sincola pointed out work-based learning programs, already being implemented in Tennessee, can help guide young adults into self-sufficiency, especially if schools developed strong ties with local businesses.
“It’s giving these kids the opportunity to earn money, gain experience and move directly into a field that can pay really well,” Sincola emphasized.
Sinacola added in states like Massachusetts, between 50% and 70% of students in vocational-tech high schools have gone onto some kind of postsecondary training.