New Image: The Association for Career and Technical Education plans this spring to launch a national campaign to change the public image of vocational education.
The Alexandria, Va.-based organization approved the plan at its annual convention and trade show held Dec. 12-15 in Orlando, Fla.
According to an ACTE working paper, "Building the Advocacy Army," the association is partnering with a communications firm to "re-brand" vocational education. ACTE leaders say the higher-level technical and thinking skills that are taught in today's vocational education programs are at odds with the public's image of hammer-and- nail wood-shop classes.
Many schools are also working harder to integrate academic and vocational programs, according to association officials. For decades, schools divided college-bound and noncollege- bound students into separate tracks.
"Many people don't have a clear understanding of all the programs that fall under career and technical education," said Steve Ackley, the assistant executive director for ACTE's business-education partnerships.
ACTE has been concerned for some time about the way its programs are perceived by the public. Delegates of the association voted in 1998 to change the group's name from the American Vocational Association to better reflect changes in the field. A number of state education departments have also renamed their vocational education programs.
The national campaign will likely kick off in March, Mr. Ackley said. It is expected to include public service announcements on television and in print media that will highlight the successes of people who pursued career education. "Ambassadors" on the state and local levels will be recruited to work with the news media and civic organizations in promoting career and technical education.
One proposed part of the national campaign would seek the advice of business leaders on how to improve career and technical education so that skills that are taught in schools align with workplace needs. Many businesses are in desperate need of high-skilled technicians and are eager to work with potential employees.
A conference that would bring educators and business leaders together is seen as a centerpiece of the campaign.
"This type of partnership provides a forum in which both sides of the [business and education] equation can talk to each other," Mr. Ackley said. "We see it as a continuing dialogue between the two groups."
—John Gehring [email protected]
Vol. 19, Issue 17, Page 8