In today’s constantly advancing society, high school students are being pushed now more than ever into academically rigorous occupations as well as complicated majors in college. Wanting their children to be the next great computer engineer or diplomat, many parents think it’s in their child’s best interest to thrust them into the hardest math classes or force them to participate in activities like Model UN — but the fact of the matter is, those paths are not for everyone.
While Westborough High School offers the traditional academic curriculum that so many people seek nowadays, it’s not always the best option for each and every student, which is where vocational schools come in. Especially for students who already have a concrete idea for what they want to do later in life, schools like Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School or Blackstone Valley Technical High School can be fantastic options.
Freshman students at vocational schools go through an “exploratory” process at the beginning of the school year, where they try out each of the different programs before choosing a program to focus on for the remainder of their high school career. At places like Assabet or BVT, students get the chance to find something they truly excel at beyond the field of academics — an option many public or even private schools don’t offer.
At a school like Westborough High, if you aren’t someone who works well or thrives in a traditional academic setting, there aren’t many opportunities to showcase your true talents to the rest of the world. However, students at vocational high schools alternate academic and “shop” weeks, giving them the opportunity to broaden their horizons by mastering a different and meaningful skill while also giving them a break from traditional school.
Today’s vocational schools don’t just offer conventional trades either. Of course, these schools offer shops like plumbing or electrical wiring, but they are also looking to move forward into other career paths such as veterinary technology, biotechnology, engineering or even law enforcement.
Assabet parent Maryellen Carew shares, “My daughter has always had an interest in nursing, so Assabet’s health technology program is a perfect fit. I like the fact that she will graduate with lots of hands-on experience in healthcare and with a certified nursing assistant (CNA), certified medical assistant and electrocardiogram technician certifications, and with a full view of careers in the broad healthcare field. I think it will give her a better idea of what she’d like to do for a career path, and she gets to spend her high school years focusing on things she finds interesting.
Ben Miano, a current freshman at BVT studying construction technology says that although he “originally looked into the school” because his “brother went there,” he “likes how the school balances academics and shops” and that he “likes learning in a hands-on way because [he] is a hands-on learner.”
Yet, there seems to be a stigma against vocational schools in this area, with people saying that many of “these” kids “won’t go to college” or that only underperforming students attend vocational schools. However, that is clearly not the case. In fact, many vocational schools have waiting lists to get in due to the caliber of teachers and programs they offer.
According to WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, “As of 2015, there were about 3,200 students on waitlists for vocational-technical schools in the state” and additionally, in 2016, “70 percent of Blackstone Valley Tech’s students went on to four-year schools, according to administrators.”
Julie Miano, mom of BVT student Ben Miano, says “BVT is a great school that provides an outstanding academic and trade education. Having one son graduate from BVT and now a Freshman in college and one currently enrolled there, the curriculum gives the students opportunities to pursue their interests in a hands-on environment. Ben has made so many projects including a toolbox, cornhole boards, Adirondack chairs, end tables, and some smaller projects. He’s currently working on a shed and has been chosen to represent Construction Tech in the Skills USA Competition.”
One of the common misconceptions about the job market nowadays is that you have to have a college degree or have gone through a traditional school setting to be successful, but that has proven time and time again to be false. College isn’t always the best fit for everyone, and especially with the rise in tuition rates, it might be good to consider other options, such as a vocational school. In fact, many vocational school students complete most of their training in high school, allowing them to work right after graduation or for some students, even as early as their senior year.
Especially in today’s constantly changing society and economy, vocational jobs are becoming more and more desirable. As the current push is towards Science Technology Engineering and Math, (or STEM) jobs, there is now more than ever a greater need for people in traditional vocational trades. Additionally, it’s not like these are easy jobs either. With the extreme rate in technological advancement over the past couple of years, these jobs require workers with the highest skill level to keep up, and that’s the kind of education these schools offer.
As stated by Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, superintendent of Blackstone Valley Schools in the WBUR article, these schools aren’t teaching their students to be “the robot” like so many other schools, “today, the student will program, design, and repair the robot.”