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To the Editor:

I read with great dismay your recent Commentary "Job Training Not a Job for Schools'' by Wellford W. Wilms (Feb. 18, 1987). I am sure there is a rather long list of individuals around the country who would say that vocational education has given them the ability to develop some positive work skills, to develop positive attitudes toward work and education, and to contribute to the economy of our nation.

As a youth of 12, I was introduced to a program called vocational agriculture in the little town of Ravenswood, W.Va. That program helped me to set some objectives in my life and to become a teacher, administrator, and now a researcher. This story is not unique, and vocational education will continue to be a successful program in the years ahead. Perhaps the following facts, excised from an article in the "Good News Letter'' from Mayer Public Schools in Mayer, Ariz., can shed some additional light on the role of vocational education in the public schools of our country:

  • Seventy-five percent of the public believes students who are not going to college should be required to have vocational education in high school.
  • Twenty-seven percent of the public believes college-bound students should be required to take vocational courses.
  • Vocational education prepares students for 26 to 37 occupations that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics identifies as expected to have the largest growth--in terms of the greatest number of real jobs--between 1984 and 1995.
  • Twelve to 20 occupations identified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as expected to have the fastest growth--greatest percentage of increase--between 1984 and 1995 require vocational-education preparation.
  • Employees with relevant vocational education required about 20 percent less formal on-the-job training, and 10 percent less informal on-the-job training, than those without relevant vocational education.
  • A study of 3,000 high-school graduates in 1,000 schools found that non-college-bound students who took at least four vocational courses in their last three years of high school enjoyed a 7 percent higher wage rate, earned 47 percent more income, and were 23 percent more likely to be employed than their non-vocational peers.

I am sure that this is a more accurate picture of vocational education than that presented by Mr. Wilms. Vocational education should and will remain a very significant part of our public-school system in the United States.

Robert V. Kerwood
Director
Arizona Center for Vocational Education
Flagstaff, Ariz.

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