NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Trade Schools On The Decline

June 21, 2000

Trade schools and vocational programs across the country are on the wane, observers report. Courses in plumbing, electrical installation, auto repair, hairdressing and carpentry were once stepping stones to careers for immigrants and those not headed for academia. Now, vocational schools which have not redefined their missions to serve a changing marketplace are being phased out.

  • At 18 of New York City's 21 vocational schools, freshman enrollment dropped 26.6 percent between 1997 and 1999.
  • Schools in Fairfax County, Va., have eliminated vocational education altogether.
  • Four years ago, schools in Ohio -- which had a long tradition of teaching trades -- began to eliminate many shop classes.
  • In some schools, courses such as fiber optics, computer networking and graphic design have taken the place of teaching the traditional trades.

Observers cite a number of factors to explain the decline of trade schools -- among them, criticism that they had become dumping grounds for students not smart enough to go to college, waning interest among youngsters concerned about their future in a high-tech economy, and the difficulty of keeping teachers who have no trouble finding higher paying work in today's booming economy.

Source: Sarah Kershaw, "Schools Turning Away from Teaching the Trades," New York Times, June 21, 2000.


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