Vocational Education: Job Skills In High School

Students work on a car at Worcester Technical High School. (US Department of Education/Flickr)

Students work on a car at Worcester Technical High School. (US Department of Education/Flickr)

Vocational technical education programs provide students with courses that seek to develop academic skills, technical knowledge and occupational advancement. As implied in the “technical” part of the name students focus on applied crafts and subjects.

About one in five Massachusetts high school students are enrolled in a vocational education program.

The Massachusetts law that addresses vocational technical education is found in Chapter 74 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Vocational schools, therefore, are often referred to as “Chapter 74-approved” schools.

What programs are offered?

The complete list of programs can be found as part of the Chapter 74 Vocational Technical Education Program Directory. The program areas include:

  • Agricultural and Natural Resources
  • Arts and Communication
  • Business and Consumer Services
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Health Services
  • Hospitality and Tourism
  • Information Technology Services
  • Legal and Protective Services
  • Manufacturing Engineering and Technology
  • Transportation

Are these all offered in the same place?

Not necessarily. Different programs are offered at different schools.

Many of the programs — such as culinary arts, which may be taken in 52 high schools — are offered at numerous schools across the state, not necessarily limited to just vocational technical schools.

There are schools, however, that do specialize in preparing students for specific trades, crafts and careers. They are the state’s 50 vocational technical schools.

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

(Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education)

 

Who can participate?

Any Massachusetts resident in high school is eligible to participate in vocational technical education programs.

Each high school may decide how it will admit students to its programs. Different schools have different selection criteria.

How can I apply?

To apply to a vocational technical program within your local or regional district, you should contact the district’s vocational technical administrator. You have to file an application and meet the school’s criteria. For contact information check the Directory of Vocational Technical Schools.

Students seal an HVAC duct configuration before conducting an air-leak test during an I-SMART Massachusetts Technical School Learning Exchange program in Marlborough, Mass. ( Julia Malakie/AP/Conservation Services Group)

Students seal an HVAC duct configuration before conducting an air-leak test during an I-SMART Massachusetts Technical School Learning Exchange program in Marlborough, Mass. ( Julia Malakie/AP/Conservation Services Group)

Can I go to a vocational school outside of my home district?

Yes. There are two ways to do this.

You can apply through the Chapter 74 non-resident option, which allows a student to attend an out-of-district vocational technical school if that program is not offered in the student’s home district or if the local program is full.

This option is program specific — meaning that a student may only stay at the out-of-district school if they remain in the program they requested. If he or she wants to switch programs, the student must file a new application.

Chapter 74 applications must be approved by the home school district and the vocational technical school. The home district must agree to pay the student’s tuition. More information about the nonresident option and the application may be found here.

The other way to apply to any vocational technical program in the state is through inter-district school choice. This is an option as long as the vocational school is in a district that receives students from outside of their district.

Students at Worcester Technical High School. (US Department of Education/Flickr)

Students at Worcester Technical High School. (US Department of Education/Flickr)

What licenses do teachers need?

Teachers at vocational schools must pass either the PreK-12 Communication and Literacy exam or the Vocational Technical Skills Test.

The Vocational Techinical Skills Test is a combination written examination and performance evaluation in the candidate’s area of expertise. More information about vocational technical educator licensure can be found here.

What are people saying about vocational schools?

At the moment, there is a growing disconnect between the number of manufacturing jobs in the state and the workers with the skills to fill those positions.

Many see vocational schools are the way to remedy this disconnect, but a recent study from Northeastern University Law School says that thousands aren’t able to get into the state’s vocational and technical high schools in order to receive training for the jobs.

“There are thousands of skilled jobs going unfilled in our Commonwealth right now because we don’t leverage these schools,” Governor-elect Charlie Baker said in his victory speech. “When I’m governor, we will.”

Some use vocational schools as a way to learn a trade, receive a certificate and save the time and money that college takes.

Even so, vocational schools are sending more and more graduates to college.


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