ERIC Identifier: ED329808
Publication Date: 1991-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education
Tech Prep. ERIC Digest No. 108.
Tech prep, an articulation partnership between secondary vocational-technical
schools and postsecondary institutions, is a model developed to help people
prepare for careers in today's society--careers that demand a technical
knowledge unheard of 25 years ago. It is an articulation effort that involves
the coordination of curricula across two or more institutions to ensure
that graduates possess the prerequisite knowledge and skill required for
employment in a chosen occupation. Tech prep can be described as an "advanced
skills" articulation model because it enables students to use the time
saved through coordinated course work to acquire the more advanced occupational
knowledge and skill required by changing technologies (Robertson-Smith
The new Carl Perkins Act Amendments made available to the Education
Department $63.4 million to distribute to the states for tech prep programs.
These funds will make it possible for tech prep programs to be more competitive
with college prep programs and to respond more directly to industry's real
skill needs (Mensel 1991).
TECH PREP AND THE CHANGING WORK FORCE
There are a variety of reasons why tech prep is becoming highly visible
in vocational-technical education. Economic, technological, demographic,
and educational patterns all influence the need for technical preparation
for the work force. During recent years, the United States has moved from
a primarily goods-producing economy to a service economy. Skills in communication,
decision making, and problem solving are in greater demand as workers have
more cause for interaction with customers, the community, and other workers.
New technology is creating a demand for workers who have increased computation,
communication, and science skills, making continual upgrading necessary.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fastest growing segment
of the job market in the 1990s will be low- to midlevel occupations, with
three out of four of those jobs requiring some education or technical training
beyond the high school level (Scott 1991).
The demographics of the work force are also changing. There are more
women, minorities, and disadvantaged students entering the workplace. Relevant
education and training in high school will enable them to move with ease
to advanced training in postsecondary institutions. About 30 percent of
community colleges' enrollment is made up of minority students (Watkins
1989). Streamlining the transfer process, eliminating unnecessary duplication
of program content, and ensuring continuity in education and training can
increase the achievement of minority students.
ARTICULATION THROUGH TECH PREP
Parnell (1985) proposes linking secondary and postsecondary curricula
as a way of adding structure and direction to educational programs that
serve high school students, whether they be in college prep or vocational
tracks. Most tech prep programs operate on a "2 + 2" basis--2 years of
high school and 2 years of college. In the "2 + 2" programs, secondary
students who have an interest in technical programs are placed in high
school programs that prepare them for more advanced training in community
college. However, some programs, like the Pee Dee Tech Prep Program of
Richmond County Schools and Richmond Community College in North Carolina,
feature 4 years of high school instead of 2. The Pee Dee Program "emphasizes
advanced communications, mathematical, scientific and technological knowledge
and skill development coupled with appropriate hands-on experiences" (Scott
1991, p. 23).
Articulation through tech prep offers a more efficient use of tax dollars
for education and training. It eliminates unnecessary duplication of program
content and includes as critical to education the technological content
knowledge and skill training required by today's employers. For business
and industry, successful tech prep programs have implications for regional
and national competitiveness. "In states where workers lack high school
credentials and essential work skills, where large numbers of high school
students opt out of further education and where employers are asking for
better qualified technical workers, tech prep has the potential to revolutionize
occupational preparation" (Scott 1991, p. 63).
STRATEGIES FOR SUCCESS
Robertson-Smith (1990) identifies several factors influencing the success
of tech-prep articulation efforts. The factors affecting students are counseling,
orientation, mentorship, and automatic admission to postsecondary institutions.
Students who enroll in a secondary technical or vocational-technical
school should receive information about the tech-prep program upon admission.
They should receive an outline of the course requirements in their occupational
area, the grade point average they will need to maintain for good standing
in the program, the occupational programs available at various postsecondary
institutions, and financial aid information.
Orientation facilitates the successful transfer of students from secondary
to postsecondary education. Negotiation through the complex transfer process
can be eased by orienting students to postsecondary facilities while they
are still in secondary school. Involving parents--through tours, counseling
sessions, and so forth--can also encourage support for the program and
facilitate student transfer.
Mentorship is one way of helping students learn about the postsecondary
programs to which they will transfer. Once enrolled, students may be linked
with students who have preceded them in the articulated tech-prep program
at the postsecondary institution and through that linkage become familiar
with the programs, students, and faculty academic program advisors.
Upon graduation from the secondary vocational-technical school, admission
to the postsecondary institution should be automatic for students who have
completed the established and articulated requirements. Making this transition
free of difficulties will contribute to students' feeling of identity with
the community college.
Faculty leadership is also critical to tech-prep articulation. Cooperative
arrangements are best achieved when there has been good communication between
faculty members from each partnership institution. Faculty from secondary
and postsecondary institutions should review such issues as "equipment
purchase and upgrading, the use of computer software, textbook changes,
and the purchase of teaching materials" (Robertson-Smith 1990, p. 9). Faculty
members from each school should participate in evaluation of student competencies
at all levels; counselors should participate in student recruitment and
monitor progress. Ideally, "postsecondary faculty members see the overall
tech prep program as an asset to their individual occupational programs
and as a means of filling their upper-level courses with qualified students;
secondary faculty members see the tech-prep program as a mean of helping
their students move into the work force either at a more rapid pace or
at a more advanced level" (ibid., p. 10).
McKinney et al. (1988) uncovered similar factors influencing success
in tech prep articulation efforts. Some of the key issues they identified
were program improvement, increased services to students, the assignment
of a high priority to articulation by state officials and local administrators,
open communication channels, effective interpersonal relationships, and
well-planned and well-written articulation agreements. Such agreements
highlight the common core of academic and technical skills needed for program
Several strategies for addressing such issues and strengthening tech
prep were adopted by the Delaware Consortium on Technical Preparation Programs
--Establish lines of communication between participating secondary and
postsecondary institutions involved in the articulation process
--Identify which secondary and postsecondary institutional programs
can be easily coordinated for transition
--Rewrite or expand curricular competencies in those instructional programs
identified for articulation
--Cooperatively design guidance forms, test forms, and course competency
checklists for participating students
--Publish a quarterly newsletter about articulation and tech prep efforts
--Develop a functional operational model to solicit the involvement
of business and industry
--Design an evaluation model to track program and student success
--Provide technical assistance to cooperating instructors for curriculum
--Conduct a public relations effort to enhance student and public awareness
of the program
Many noteworthy articulation arrangements and programs are in operation
(or in the initiation phase) at high schools and community colleges across
the country. These programs typically give attention to problems of underprepared
students, duplication of effort, and limited budget resources. They require
coordination and collaboration between faculty at participating institutions
to address curricular planning, textbooks, equipment, course content, and
facility sharing. In most instances, the tech prep programs involve business
and industry, either in an advisory capacity or in a training capacity.
The demand for tech prep reflects needs generated by the changing economic,
technological, demographic, and educational patterns of today's society
and work force. Linking secondary and postsecondary curricula to prepare
youth for work is a goal of tech prep efforts. Through such articulation,
tax dollars are used more efficiently for education and training, avoiding
duplication of programs and enhancing occupational preparation. Successful
articulation efforts support student counseling, orientation, mentorship,
automatic admission to postsecondary institutions, and faculty preservice
and inservice training critical to tech prep articulation.
Delaware Consortium on Technical Preparation Programs. Tech Prep Compendium
of Models. Dover: Delaware Statewide Vocational-Technical High Schools
and Delaware Technical and Community Colleges, 1989. (ED 319 927).
McKinney, F. L.; Fields, E. L.; Kurth, P.; and Kelly, F. E. Factors
Influencing the Success of Secondary/Postsecondary Vocational-Technical
Education Articulation Programs. Columbus: The National Center for Research
in Vocational Education, The Ohio State University, 1988. (ED 289 053).
Mensel, F. "Tech-Prep Funding: The 'Ford to Harkin to Hatfield to Natcher
and Conte' Miracle." Community, Technical and Junior College Times 3, no.
1 (January 1, 1991): 9.
Parnell, D. The Neglected Majority. Washington, DC: American Association
of Community and Junior Colleges, 1985. (ED 262 843).
Robertson-Smith, M. Articulation Models for Vocational Education. Information
Series No. 343. Columbus: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational
Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, The Ohio State
Scott, R. W. "Making the Case for Tech Prep." Vocational Education Journal
66, no. 2 (February 1991): 22-23, 63.
Watkins, B. T. "2-Year Institutions under Pressure to Ease Transfers."
Chronicle of Higher Education 36, no. 9 (November 1, 1989): A35, 38.