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Vocational Education

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Although many economic experts are pointing to minorities and women as the answer to the nation's shortage of skilled workers, Wisconsin officials have initiated a teacher-training program to make sure that handicapped students will also be able to compete.

For nearly two years, the state's Department of Public Instruction has been offering special-education teachers a six-week course on assessing occupational interests and aptitudes of handicapped students. By learning vocational skills, the teachers can provide instructional support services for handicapped vocational students.

As a result of the project, more than 900 handicapped students in 45 districts statewide have become involved in vocational-education programs. The program is based on a similar plan developed by Georgia's department of education.

Despite the findings of other reports and studies, a survey conducted by the American Association of School Administrators has found that a majority of some 2,000 school superintendents reported no shortage of certified vocational-education instructors in their school districts.

The random-sample survey was conducted last year in an attempt to gauge support for the Reagan Administration's proposals for the reauthorization of the Vocational Education Act of 1963, which is expected to be introduced during the current Congressional session, and the replacement of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act.

Among other things, the survey found no clear evidence of support for legislation that would consolidate vocational and adult-education programs into a block grant. There was support, however, among the superintendents for the idea of merging vocational education "administratively" with adult education or employment and training, or both programs rather than retaining them as separately managed programs.

In their responses, according to a summary of the survey's findings, the superintendents conveyed their sense of a "critical" need for adequate funding for relevant skills-training programs and "frustration" over the source of that money.

As a resource for local business and industrial firms, the Colorado State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education has installed a computerized information and referral service, called Best Bet.

The call-in service provides business employment and training information, and it supplies listings of skill-training programs offered at area vocational schools and postsecondary institutions throughout Colorado.

When local business executives are in need of training programs to upgrade employee skills, or when they want to hire students with a particular skill, they can call a toll-free number at the state board for the information.

The project was initiated by the Colorado Alliance of Business in cooperation with the state department of labor and employment and the governor's office.--sgf

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