Joint Subcommittee to Study Continuing and Vocational/Technical Education
August 15, 2000, Richmond
Established in 1999 to examine the feasibility of developing a vocational/technical continuing education center, the joint subcommittee's first-year of study consisted of a comprehensive review and update on vocational/technical training in Virginia's public schools, a review of the vocational/technical training programs available in the community college system, presentation of some higher education continuing education data, an overview of Virginia law relating to vocational/technical education, and three site visits to various vocational/technical programs located in central Virginia.
Pursuant to SJR 242 (2000), the study is currently focused more broadly on continuing and vocational/technical education and charged with:
Improving Technical Education
During the first of its four authorized meetings for the 2000 interim, Dr. Gene Bottoms, senior vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), addressed the joint subcommittee on improving career and technical education. At the beginning of his presentation, Dr. Bottoms asked the subcommittee to answer a series of questions:
Approximately 20 percent of jobs are, in 2000, and were, in the 1950s, considered "low-wage." The forecasts of large growth in low-wage jobs, which were made some years ago, have not occurred. Among the current 30 million top-paying jobs, 62 percent require a college degree; 20 years ago, approximately 20 percent of high-paying jobs required some college training. At this time, 56 percent of jobs require some training beyond high school; this job category continues to grow.
The employment trends have changed in the last 20 years, with technical skills becoming more and more crucial. In fact, 40 percent of jobs are "brief-case" jobs, requiring technical skills and the capacity to learn new skills. Manufacturing jobs are down, yet production is up. Virtually all students want more computer training, and most jobs require computer skills. These statistics and facts indicate that currently jobs require more higher education and better technical skills than ever before and that young people, to be flexible, need a sound academic foundation and technical skills.
The SREB program that Dr. Bottoms initiated, High Schools That Work, is focused on developing "challenging academic courses and modern vocational studies to raise the achievement of career-bound high school students." Thus, SREB has concentrated on career-bound young people, defined as that majority of high school students who are planning to go to work, join a military service, or go to a community college or other post-secondary program having an open admissions policy. In other words, those students who are "too often overlooked and under-educated."
High Schools That Work is a consortium of 22 states and more than 900 schools that is based on such premises as:
SREB's report on High Schools That Work in Virginia demonstrates that reading and writing skills are still in need of improvement and that, although math and science skills have improved, regular use of math and science in practical applications needs to be reinforced. The report also indicated that many students are not receiving needed extra help in math (41 percent) and English (60 percent). The report also seems to indicate a need for more staff development.
The subcommittee also reviewed a proposed study plan and agreed to pursue site visits and the collection and evaluation of additional data. Site visit meetings will be scheduled after the opening of the school year.