ERIC Identifier: ED467982
Publication Date: 2001-10-00
Author: Hennigan, Jamie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
The Business of Vocational Education. ERIC Digest.
Businesses and education, once seen as competing enterprises, and at times,
fundamental enemies, have recently begun to embrace one another to create a more
holistic, well-rounded education that satisfies both the demands for skilled
employees as well as knowledgeable, or intellectually capable citizens.
Vocational education, for example, has undergone consistent reform in the last
decade to satisfy the demands of public, corporate, and government sectors that
hold community colleges accountable. Perhaps the most notable element of change
has been the active participation of businesses in developing and implementing
initiatives in vocational education programs. This digest, drawn from "The New
Vocationalism in Community Colleges" (New Directions for Community Colleges,
fall 2001), explores various ways in which business has joined with educational
institutions to improve vocational education efforts.
Vocational education and the role of the
community college have evolved beyond that of traditional entry-level workforce
training to include training that will "provide individuals with skill sets...to
pursue careers in high-wage, high skill occupations" (Jacobs, 2001, p. 93). This
metamorphosis, brought about by the changing needs and demands made by the
federal government, the private sector, and the business world, has created what
is being referred to as "new vocationalism" (Bragg, 2001).
New vocationalism is centered on five core principles as outlined by Bragg
(2001). Emphasis is placed upon:
career clusters that extend from entry-level positions through professional
levels in fields considered integral to the new economy.
an integrated curriculum consisting of both academic and vocational elements.
more integration into the K-16 educational system and a broader base of economic
and social structures.
active teaching strategies, learner-centered instruction, constructivist
theories, and project-based approaches to teaching
more holistic instruction and a curriculum that is more meaningful in
Inherent in each of these core principles is the input of business. Active
participation by business allows for more comprehensive, tailor-made programs
that are mutually beneficial to all parties: students, community colleges, and
A NECESSARY PARTNERSHIP
Five favored approaches to new
vocationalism can be cited: tech-prep programs, work-based learning programs,
articulated vocational education and applied baccalaureate degree programs,
certificate programs for credit and noncredit, and contract and customized
training programs. Bragg (2001) states that while these specific approaches are
popular, no single model or approach works best for all institutions. However,
an essential element in making new vocationalism a successful and effective
venture is the partnership between the business community and the community
college. Purposes behind such partnerships include opportunities to "forecast
workforce development needs, develop new training opportunities, identify new
student markets, and create training and preparation specializations" (Orr, 2001
p. 41). Orr also states that businesses and educational institutions can work
collaboratively in problem-solving scenarios and in addressing local workforce
and education issues.
For example, many observers have noted the need for an integrated curriculum
that involves academic as well as vocational elements. Who better to consult
about skills needed in the work place than the very businesses that stand to
benefit from a more knowledgeable, highly skilled workforce? Moreover, programs
such as tech-prep and work-based learning involve apprenticeships or internships
that take place in businesses. The following sections provide examples of
business involvement in established initiatives in new vocationalism.
Brown (2001) describes how Texas has implemented
tech-prep programs in response to federal and state legislation. Regional
partnerships were formed and committees appointed comprised of community college
personnel and businesses to "help match tech prep program development with
regional labor market demand" (p. 51). The benefits of such partnerships are
mutual in that community colleges are able to respond to specific regional labor
needs and at the same time identify new student markets and boost enrollment.
Overt involvement by the business world is obvious within this initiative.
WORK-BASED LEARNING PROGRAMS
Johnston (2001) defines
workplace learning as any type of "education that takes place outside of the
classroom setting" (p. 73). Apprenticeships, internships, and cooperative
education programs are among the types of programs considered work-based
learning. According to Johnson (2001) several factors contribute to the
effectiveness of work-based learning programs. Among these factors are:
connections to local markets where work-based programs have the most direct
impact and frequent formal and informal communications with local employees that
involve college personnel, employers, and employees.
ARTICULATED VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND APPLIED BACCALAUREATE
Transfer education has long been one of the roles of community
colleges. Vocational education, historically viewed as terminal, is now
encouraging transfer to four-year institutions (Townsend, 2001). While
partnerships with business have met with some resistance from universities and
other four-year institutions, some business involvement enables institutions to
provide specific skills for future employees and to better predict future labor
and corporate needs.
CERTIFICATION FOR CREDIT AND NONCREDIT
Formal credit (such
as certificates, degrees, diplomas, etc.) is, indeed, important; however, skills
and life experiences are equally valid as a form of training/education.
Businesses, in communication with community colleges, have indicated which
skills are desired and have, therefore, created certificate programs quickly to
meet those needs. "New certificate programs, typically of eighteen to
twenty-four credit hours, are popping up in community colleges nationwide as
they bundle new and existing courses into skill-based certificate
packages"(Bragg, 2001, p. 11). These certificate programs allow for quick
recognition of specific skills and training by both businesses and institutions.
CONTRACT AND CUSTOMIZED TRAINING PROGRAMS
the most overt collaborations between businesses and community colleges are
manifested in contract and customized training programs. According to Bragg,
(2001), "many community colleges engage in a host of partnership arrangements
specifically designed for local business and industry"(p. 12). Again, this
partnership between businesses and community colleges is mutually beneficial as
it provides valuable revenue for community colleges among a multitude of other
In each of the five initiatives of new
vocationalism, business and corporate collaborations are helping to create a
more effective, well-rounded, and inclusive education. Partnerships between
community colleges and businesses are important. In fact, Brown (2001) states
that "by virtue of their mission, community and technical colleges play a
pivotal role in the coordination of multiple levels of educational, economic,
and community partnerships that link public education with business, industry,
and labor" (p. 61). Clearly, as the economy, society, and government change,
vocational education will continue to evolve to incorporate new forms of work
organizations and technological advances (Yoo, 2001). Keeping up with these
changes will take courage and foresight on the part of both community colleges
and the business community.
This digest is drawn from "The new vocationalism
in community colleges." New Directions for Community Colleges, Number 115,
edited by Debra D. Bragg. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Fall 2001.
Bragg, Debra D. Opportunities and Challenges for the new Vocationalism in
American Community Colleges. (pp. 5-16.)
Brown, Carrie H. Two-Year Colleges and Tech Prep Partnerships: A Texas
Perspective. (pp. 51-62).
Jacobs, James. Community Colleges and the Workforce Investment Act: Promises
and Problems of the New Vocationalism. (pp 93-100).
Johnston, George H. Work-Based Learning: Finding a New Niche. (pp. 73-80)
Orr, Margaret T. Community Colleges and Their Communities: Collaboration for
Workforce Development. (pp. 39-50)
Summers, Michael D. The Role of Leadership in Successful Vocational
Initiatives. (pp. 17-26).
Townsend, Barbara K. Blurring the Lines: Transforming Terminal Education to
Transfer Education. (pp. 73-72).
Yoo, Jung-sup. Sources and Information: Postsecondary Vocational Education.