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State Chiefs Urge Improved Vocational Training

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Portland,Ore--A more systematic and integrated process to help youths make the transition from school to work was proposed here last week by the Council of Chief State School Officers (ccsso).

The plan, adopted at the ccsso annual meeting, calls for creating more job opportunities for young people, improving education and training by schools, and strengthening job-placement services.

It was developed both as a position paper for the forthcoming reauthorization by Congress of the Vocational Education Act and in reaction to increasing speculation that the Reagan Administration would like to shift responsibility for vocational education away from the Education Department to the Department of Labor.

The plan focuses on youths between the6ages of 14 and 25 who have difficulty moving from school to work. According to the ccsso paper, three million youths are currently unemployed in the country and another two million are neither in school nor seeking employment.

And the rate of youth unemployment, the paper asserts, is increasing faster than the unemployment rate of those who are 25 and over.

After noting that general economic growth will benefit youths by making more jobs available and increasing funds for youth-employment services, the chief state school officers' plan calls for: increased tax incentives for employers who hire young people, improved labor-market information and projections, more training tailor-made to specific employment needs, more apprenticeship and cooperative education programs, and increased public-sector employment opportunities.

The plan calls upon schools to emphasize some employment skills as well as academic skills, including job selection, behavior, and training.

It recommends that schools identify potentially-unemployable young men and women and work out for each an individualized "Employability Development Plan" (edp) which would include basic-skills training, employment-skill development, on-the-job training, employment placement, and employment follow-up.

In a statement delivered before the two Senate committees earlier this year, the former president of the ccsso, Robert D. Benton of Iowa, said the council has long supported the edp concept as the key element to ensuring youth employability.

Mr. Benton also told the Senate committees that future legislation should address the employment needs of the economically and educationally disadvantaged, the handicapped, young men and women wishing to enter non-traditional occupations, and those with limited-English proficiency.

"The mastery of employability skills is as essential to the development of an individual's employment potential as is mastery of basic educational and occupational skills," according to the policy paper.

The chiefs also called for expanded job-placement services that would include follow-ups by schools with both young people and their employers.

The policy paper was prepared by a ccsso committee headed by Gordon Ambach, commissioner of education in New York. At the chiefs' meeting, it drew praise from Gene Bottoms, director of the American Vocational Association, for its emphasis on the roles schools should play in preparing youths for employment.

The chiefs' legislation committee will develop specific proposals for Congressional consideration and will work with the vocational association in an effort to produce joint testimony.

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