Vocational-Education Column

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Any youth-apprenticeship system, American-style, should take into account the needs of the nation's Hispanic youths, more than two-thirds of whom are unlikely to attend college, a report released last month by the National Council of La Raza concludes.

The council sent a delegation of 10 specialists in Hispanic education and training to Germany, Denmark, and Sweden to observe their apprenticeship systems firsthand. The team also met with a group of minority leaders from Europe who had been German Marshall Fund fellows.

But while team members admired aspects of the European systems, they raised several caveats. Immigrants and members of minority groups, for example, did not fare well in the apprenticeship programs the delegates visited, and women rarely entered apprenticeships in traditionally male occupations.

The council suggests creating safeguards in this country to insure that Latinos and other minority students are not tracked into apprenticeships when they should be preparing for college; given less than an equal opportunity to participate; or denied access to apprenticeships because there are no alternative entry points for school dropouts and those with special needs.

It also notes that European countries provide a living wage for their apprentices, so that even youths from poor families can participate in long-term training.

"The only way to assure an appropriate school-to-work transition system in the United States,'' concluded Raul Yzaguirre, the council's president, "is by including and involving minority leaders and practitioners--and minority community-based organizations--as full partners in the planning and pilot-testing of new approaches.'' To date, the report notes, such involvement has been minimal.

Copies of the report, "The Forgotten Two-Thirds: An Hispanic Perspective on Apprenticeship, European Style,'' are available from the Publications Department, N.C.L.R., 810 First St., N.E., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20005-4205; (202) 289-1380.

At least one group thinks the federal government should spend more money on vocational education for nondisadvantaged students who are not college-bound.

In a paper released this summer, the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing suggests increasing federal expenditures for technical education from $1.2 billion to $6 billion by fiscal 1997.

But the high-tech group advocates that the money be more evenly distributed among the general population, rather than focused primarily on poor and special-needs students.

"A more even distribution of funds,'' the coalition suggests, "... will reduce tracking and will lend more credence to federal workforce-development policies.''

The U.S. Labor Department has awarded $13.3 million to Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J., for the first comprehensive evaluation of the Job Corps in more than a decade.

President Clinton has slated the Great Society program for a major expansion based, in part, on a 1982 study that found the program returned $1.46 to society for every dollar spent.

The new study will assess the employment and earnings of Job Corps graduates, as well as the program's cost benefits.

The department has also awarded an $800,000 contract to the Educational Testing Service to develop a workplace-literacy test for job-training sites, local employment services, and other organizations engaged in literacy training.

The test is a byproduct of an earlier E.T.S. study, "Beyond the School Doors,'' that assessed the literacy skills of nearly 6,000 adults.

The dearth of career guidance and counseling for American students has become a widely recognized problem.

Now, eight states plan to experiment with a folder-style portfolio this school year to help students craft their career plans.

"Get a Life: Your Personal Planning Portfolio'' was developed by the American School Counselor Association and the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee.

Juliette N. Lester, the executive director of the N.O.I.C.C., described the career-planning guide as a way to help students "relate their educational plans and progress to career interests, aptitudes, work experiences, and goals.''

The folders can be taken with students when they graduate.

The participating states--Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, and Vermont--will use the portfolios in a variety of settings, including teacher-advisory groups and technical-preparation programs.

More information is available from Nancy Perry or Burt Carlson at the N.O.I.C.C., 2100 M St., N.W., Suite 156, Washington D.C. 20037; (202) 653-5671.

Employers interested in strengthening the transition from school to work can join a Youth Apprenticeship Business Network being formed by the National Alliance of Business.

For a free membership, employers can write to the N.A.B., Business Center for Youth Apprenticeship, 1201 New York Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005-3917, attention: Peter Joyce; (202) 289-2938.--L.O.

Vol. 12, Issue 40

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