Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

School-to-Work for Everyone

Magazine article Vocational Education Journal

School-to-Work for Everyone

Article excerpt

Ever since she helped her father build the family house, Katie Blystone has been interested in carpentry.

When she reached high school age, Katie wanted to attend her local vocational school. But her small rural school didn't think a girl belonged on a bus of rowdy boys. Katie had to fight even in today's modern world for her right to enroll in building trades.

But that's not the end of her story.

At 17 Katie became embroiled in family problems and found herself without financial support or a place to live. Instead of dropping out of school, however, Katie transferred to her vocational school's district so she could continue in the building trades class and enroll in the school's co-op program at a local lumber company--and earn enough to support herself.

"I am a carpenter because I like the end result, not because I am a woman and want to prove I can do it," Katie says simply.

When I think of Katie, I think about how many potential students the School-to-Work Opportunities Act can reach--how many students with special needs can live more comfortable lives with good-paying, satisfying careers.

So far the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education have awarded millions in grants for school-to-work planning and implementation. Those with federal grants will be the first to discover whether it is possible to create an inclusive education system that leads to good jobs.

To reach all students, equity must be infused at every level of school-to-work. If programs are going to be designed more inclusively, we must build in support services, employer/educator training and other equity components.

We also must have the right mindset to truly serve all students. And all students includes single parents, female and male nontraditional students, displaced homemakers, minority students, high school dropouts, students with disabilities, students with limited English proficiency and disadvantaged students.

Initially the School-to-Work Opportunities Act targets the 75 percent who will not complete four-year college degrees before entering the workforce. While this focus brings attention to the unmet needs of the majority of high school students, it will not provide universal access.

Accepting the philosophy that school-to-work will automatically reach all students is placing an unproven theory ahead of the realities of gender and race bias, the feminization of poverty, sexual harassment, pay inequity and other social problems. …

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