The cost of college tuition has been skyrocketing in the last few years. With most young adults attending college still opting for a traditional university experience studying the liberal arts and earning degrees in areas such as English, Philosophy, History and Music; they are graduating burdened with debt and a lack of available jobs offering salaries high enough for them to pay back their loans.
This has left an entire generation of Americans questioning the worth of higher education and without the necessary practical skills that are needed in today’s workforce. Good jobs are still plentiful in America but with the increasing complexity of modern technology, even so-called blue collar jobs require prior training.
How Vocational Training Can Adapt to the Changing Times
Vocational Education is training for a particular skill; be it the skills of a technician, the learning of a trade or even studying for a specific job in areas such as nursing and engineering. As the need for workers possessing a specialized skill set has increased in the 21st century, a vocational education offers an attractive alternative to a purely academic degree, and at a fraction of the cost.
The wide variety of fields a vocational education can prepare you for is truly staggering, ranging from agriculture to information technology and from medicine to energy conservation. For example, if you have an interest in working outdoors perhaps a career in the agricultural sciences would be a good fit for you. There are a plethora of programs at community colleges and private institutions across the United States that offer courses in horticulture and food science that can prepare you for jobs in crop consultancy, as a field representative for produce brokers and buyers, and as a food processor. Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts offers an associate’s degree in food science geared toward food science engineering and with a little modification, nutrition.
If computers and networking fascinates you, there are literally thousands of vocational programs that focus on the skills required to land an intriguing job in the ever-expanding realm of information technology. Pima Community College in Tuscon, Arizona offers courses in health information technology that prepare students for rewarding careers as a coder or a medical records and insurance technician. In addition, Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina has a range of courses and certifications in information technology including, associate’s degrees, industry certifications and diplomas for a specific specialization.
According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, information security analysts are projected to be one of the fastest growing occupations through 2022 along with a host of other jobs that can be acquired through vocational education such as occupational and physical therapy assistants, electricians, personal care and home health aides, nurse practitioners, and dental hygienists. Far from being limited to the traditional attachment to trade schools and jobs such as carpentry and plumbing, vocational programs have grown beyond manual labor to include a host of opportunities for the modern workforce.
Versatility of Adult Education
The complexities of today’s job marketplace have increased dramatically. Very few people now work for the same company or in the same career for the majority of their working life, adding a level of insecurity and unpredictability not seen in at least 50 years. The rapidly changing landscape of employment options has caused many working adults to return to school in order to learn new skills and make themselves more marketable to prospective employers or to change careers altogether. The number of adults forced into this situation, especially since the financial crisis of 2008 has been unprecedented. A large amount chose to look at the diverse possibilities open to them through vocational and adult education.
Adults tend to be the most practical segment of learners in society, meaning that they are usually motivated to learn new skills for the most pragmatic of reasons like obtaining a higher salary or to just seek new employment opportunities. Therefore, adult education classes tend to be conducted differently from classes for their 18 – 22 year old counterparts.
In general, adult education courses are structured around the schedules of the students with most classes being offered in the evenings and online. Adults even have the option of studying on the weekends.
Adult education brings a more varied approach to classroom learning and can usually involve in-depth discussion regarding topics relevant to the skills the adults are studying. For example, a class for aspiring nurse practitioners may involve debates on the proper way to practice medicine within the framework of the law surrounding the practice. With the highly differing life experiences adult students can bring to the table, this often makes for an informed and lively classroom dialogue.
As such, the societal stigma that many adults still sense upon announcing that they are returning to school will soon be a thing of the past. If current employment trends continue, the majority of young adults currently in their 30’s can look forward to continued education and changing of careers throughout their working lives.
GED Testing – Good Enough Diploma or An Opportunity To Be Seized?
For younger learners that may have struggled in high school due to conditions at home or families that immigrated to the United States before a member could earn an equivalent high school diploma, the General Education Development Test, or more commonly known as the GED, offers a path to showcase competency in the subjects taught in high school that is vital nowadays for anyone entering the workforce. Successful completion of the GED allows one to confidently apply for job vacancies and even to enter community college vocational education programs that prepare students for the real world.
Although much maligned in popular culture, even often referred to as the “Good Enough Diploma,” the GED test is anything but good enough, covering an array of subjects like history, geography, economics, government, the sciences, mathematics and even the language arts like poetry and literature. Passing GED test-takers have demonstrated proficiency in writing well-organized sentences and a high-aptitude for the skills necessary in the present day world of employment.
Although not traditionally thought of as a path towards achieving the American Dream, vocational education, adult education and the GED Test provide an avenue to employability and career success that’s becoming increasingly difficult to find in today’s modern world. The 21st century is likely to see even more drastic changes to how education is viewed and delivered but these will remain potent sources of learning for a progressively diversified and specialized working-age population.