Vocational Education for children and young adults

How do we prepare Children for life after education?

Are children who don’t go into higher education well catered for?

This is another one of those life and educational questions Ive been asking myself recently. I’m coming at this from the perspective of someone who left high school at 16 and went into engineering through what in the UK we would call an apprenticeship and in other places an internship or a trade.

20 years later in circling back to my education and pursue it a degree, but at the time I left school that was never a realistic expectation for me.

I had no desire to continue in classroom based education, still don’t to be honest. I love to learn but hate to be taught as they say.

I really cannot say that the education system failed me because it didn’t, but there is still a gap that exists between children and young adults who will pursue higher education and the support offered to those who will not.

Is there an answer?

I believe that there is and it’s relatively simple of the surface, but perhaps more complex in its execution The education system is almost entirely geared towards preparing us for higher education.

The problem is its a one size fits all solution that tries to fit many different shapes through the same round hole.

By the time we are 14 and we start to prepare for life after school we know what the path is going to be in terms of when our full time education is going to end.

This is a point where divergence is possible and this is where the short comings in the system currently come into play.

So many children or young adults leave the education system at 16 with a few random exam qualifications but few life skills and no vocational skills.

It’s a problem, manufacturing, engineering, construction are all essential to an economy. But we routinely miss the opportunity to take these folks into these industries to help them make the most of themselves.

Instead they get pushed out of the door into low paid jobs in the service industry where they receive no vocational education, they may go to college with no idea of why they ended up there other than to fill in time, or tragically they just end up as statistics in the unemployment line.

The lucky few get that opportunity of a trade and vocational training. It’s a missed opportunity for educators to develop those skills in young adults at 14.

If thats true then what would the advantages be?

That’s another good question, and the advantages its key to note would be to our education system, our children and business so its a win-win all round.

It places less pressure on the educational system. If you take a kid who isn’t interested in trigonometry and algebra for example, but is interested in plumbing or electrical. The school goes from having someone who is disengaged and potentially disruptive, to having someone interested and engaged in what they are doing.

The young adult gets a reason to get up in the morning, they learn a set of skills and critically they are helped to be ready for the working world.

Add to the their educational skills some financial literacy and they will be set for life.

These young adults then become much more appealing to business. They have started their education in their education in their vocation have some trade skills, have some life skills and motivation because they can immediately be of some use to the business.

The business benefits because they don’t have to start with the very basic, like this is how to hold a screwdriver.

Does it mean that business gets someone who is the full package and ready to go?

Well no of course not, in the same way that those businesses don’t get that from their graduate hires.

What they do get is someone who is on the right path, knows the basic requirements of the job and the basic skills required.

It’s a big swing in the way that education is delivered but if you look at the numbers of young adults leaving school today and either lifelessly dropping into the gig economy with no prospects, dropping into college with no clear aim, or worse the unemployment line.

We could and should be doing more to prepare those folks for a bright future outside of education.

It’s possible we just need to think outside the box and pivot to what works best for those who are ever more quickly becoming the lost generation.

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