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Vocational On the U. S. Ed Department Block

I attended an Academic Convocation at the Milwaukee Area Technical College on April 16, 2003 and heard with pleasure about the great accomplishments of MATC as described by the President, Provost, and MATC Board, faculty and student representatives. But the Keynote Address by Dr. Carol D’Amico, U.S. Assistant Secretary for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Dept. of Education was a complete contradiction of vocational education practices that have been successfully carried out in Milwaukee and the United States since the 1900’s.

MATC (Annual headcount of more than 60,000 since the 1970’s) has successfully provided vocational education, basic skills education including English as a Second Language for a majority of the Milwaukee area workforce for more than 80 years.

Unbelievably, Dr. D’Amico and the Bush administration are suggesting that the national Perkins vocational education legislation funding that has provided American public K-12 schools and postsecondary education with resources to provide the most productive high quality workforce in the world should be reduced or eliminated and the funding transferred to “new” national programs. Incredibly “all” of the reasons given for changing vocational education in the United States are based on false or bogus interpretations of employment data by occupations. Essentially Dr. D’Amico gave the same absurd speech at MATC, “Rethinking Vocational Education”, that she gave recently to the WCTE (formerly the American Vocational Association) that received a negative reception.

Dr. D’Amico says, ” The Bush administration’s vision of education as preparation for a 21st century workforce is eminently sensible and comprehensive – academic achievement for all. All American students need the opportunity to master academic courses and practical skills at a level at the very least comparable to our international counterparts. Economically speaking, we now live in a brave new world with a global economy neither compassionate nor forgiving. For our country to lead and compete, our youth must be able to compete in a global marketplace.”

Reality is that the United States K-12 and post secondary education systems produce the most productive workers in the world, including the finest scientists, medical doctors, engineers, business leaders and computer and technical workers in the world. The United States is the leader of the world global economy and is the largest consumer of the world’s output of goods and services. There is absolutely no shortage of high skill workers in the United States. In fact the bubble has burst not only on the American and world stock markets but also on the so-called high tech jobs of the future. In 2002 the U.S. Labor Department reports a decline in computer industry jobs of 12.6% and a total decline of 2 million workers in the U.S. workforce since March 2001.
Dr. D’Amico also says “The fact is that nearly all of today's young people need a proper secondary education to equip them for a life that will include multiple jobs requiring ever more sophisticated skills, as well as one or more bouts with postsecondary education (maybe right after high school, perhaps later) and successful citizenship in a complex modern society.”

The message is that vocational education should not be taught in high schools. Instead useless academic courses for most students, except for college admission, such as algebra, higher math and science should be required of all students. And most specific vocational education programs should be taught in post secondary schools. Incredibly it is claimed that “all” students can achieve at high levels in academic courses and therefore have higher-level employment options. Any rational person knows this is not true, but even if it were true, there is no rational reason for requiring “all” students to pass high level academic courses.

Reality is that many poor students will fail these academic courses and rather than obtaining preparation in jobs that actually exist in great numbers, such as in food services, health services and mechanical trades that may be achieved at no cost to the working poor. Instead they will waste a year or more and pay tuition for post secondary courses they cannot afford for jobs that may initially pay low wages. If students fail useless academic courses and drop out of school they may be disadvantaged in the job market for life.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that charges tuition for vocational education. In European countries such as Germany, vocational education at all levels, including medical doctors; a free or very low cost vocational education is a right of all citizens who can qualify for admission, just like public elementary and secondary school education. In these countries students can choose to enroll in vocational programs at vocational schools at age 16 but may change their occupational objectives later. In the U.S. vocational students in low paying occupations may pay tuition at private and public post-secondary schools that is comparable to four-year colleges.

Dr. D’Amico also says, “ The American economy will continue to be dynamic. In spite of setbacks and challenges, a net total of 23 million new jobs will be created in the next 10 years if the trends of the last decade continue. New job growth and retiree replacement together will produce a need for 18 million new baccalaureate degree holders by 2012. At current college and university graduation rates, the available new college degree holders will fall 33% short of demand.” Reality is that the job projections stated above are given with absolutely no credible analysis of actual job projections 2000-2010 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Analysis of United States occupational employment projections to 2010 indicate that most new jobs will arise in occupations that require only work related training (on-the-job training or work experience in a related occupation), even though these occupations are projected to grow more slowly, on average, than occupations that require more education. “This reflects the fact these occupations, (OJT and work experience related) accounted for about 7 out of 10 jobs in 2000.” Total Employment in the U.S. in 2000 was 145,594,000, which is projected to increase 22,160,000 (15.2%) to 167,754,000 workers in 2010. About one out of five jobs may require a Bachelor’s Degree or more.

In Wisconsin (1) Almost eight of every ten jobs (79%) will require less than a bachelor’s degree. About 21% of jobs will require four or more years of college, or a bachelor’s or higher degree in combination with work experience.(2) Over one half of jobs (56%) will require only short term (less than a month) (35%) or moderate term (one to twelve months) (21%) on the job training. (Wisconsin Projections 2000 –2010
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, March 2003)

At MATC, Dr. D’Amico repeated a ridiculous statement that I have not heard for several years that was a favorite of Governor Thompson and other politicians. “Eighty percent of high school students will need to take post-secondary “technical” courses in order to be successfully employed in the future.”

Technology makes jobs simpler not more difficult and makes workers more productive. The great majority of the jobs of the future are the same jobs of the 20th Century with new technological tools making these jobs easier to do. The great majority of jobs in 2010 require on the job training, experience or vocational education, not courses in higher math and science or technology. Elementary school children, including MPS students can use computers better than most adult workers.

Principles for Fallacious High Stakes Testing in the United States
(1) Most jobs require higher math skills. No! Perhaps 5% of jobs might require
higher-level math skills.
(2) Most jobs require higher-level science skills. No! Maybe as many as 10% of
jobs might require higher science skills.
(3) Most jobs require above average writing and verbal skills. No!
(4) Most jobs require critical thinking skills. No? Does anyone know what critical
thinking skills are and why they are so important?
(5) Most jobs require so-called “proficient” level reading skills. No! Basic reading
skills may be necessary for most jobs. (NAEP proficiency levels used are useless
Everyone who has ever studied the NAEP achievement levels has rejected them)
(6) Students must be denied promotion based on test scores at all K-12 grade levels. No! This is child abuse that harms children for no rational reason.

For actual employment projections 2000-2010 see the following at www.jobseducationwis.org 148 Top 185 Job Titles for Employment in the United States in 2010 147 Just Another Big Con in Education in the United States: Every student must achieve at the highest academic standards to graduate from high school and to be employable in a family living wage job. 146 Analysis of Wisconsin Employment by Job Title 2000-2010

— Dennis W. Redovich
“Rethinking Vocational Education” is Unintelligent Nonsense
April 2003


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