ERIC Identifier: ED282092
Publication Date: 1987-00-00
Author: Naylor, Michele
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Effective and Ethical Recruitment of Vocational Education
Students. Overview. ERIC Digest No. 61.
Like academic education, vocational education has suffered enrollment
problems simply because there are fewer students today than a few years ago.
Other factors that have hurt vocational enrollments include recent efforts to
increase the number of academic credits required for graduation and, in the case
of area vocational-technical schools, negative attitudes toward vocational
education on the part of sending school personnel. As a result, vocational
educators must either reassess their existing marketing and recruitment
strategies or develop such programs.
The benefits of a well-conceived recruitment program--both inside and outside
the education sector--have been well documented. Educational marketing and
recruitment campaigns must not, however, be developed without a strong concern
for the ethicality of all strategies used.
Besides the problems of declining enrollments and increasing credit
requirements, a combination of other forces is placing additional strains on the
ability of vocational education to attract students. A study of administrators
and counselors from area vocational-technical schools (AVTS) throughout
Pennsylvania indicatd that the following are the major difficulties in
recruiting students: sending school "protectionism" due to declining enrollment,
sending school counselors, negative reactions to and lack of knowledge about
vocational education by sending school personnel, sending school personnel's
practice of discouraging "better" students from attending AVTS, sending school
budgets and AVTS per-pupil costs, the inability to reach all potential students,
and parents' preconceived ideas of vocational education (O'Neill, 1985.) Thus,
even if vocational educators do not desire to undertake an aggressive, offensive
marketing and recruitment campaign, circumstances are forcing them to devise
ways of marketing their programs--if only to defend themselves against
misinformation and attempts to keep potentially willing enrollees from entering
a vocational program.
WHAT IS ETHICAL RECRUITMENT?
Perhaps the easiest way to define ethical recruitment is to begin by
examining what is unethical. Fiske (1981) cites some college recruitment tactics
that either approach or go beyond the bounds of what may be considered ethical
marketing practices. His examples illustrate the following marketing and
recruitment abuses: gimmickry, deception, payment for enrollees, no-need
scholarships, early deadlines, and overadmission.
Although the latter four practices are not directly applicable to secondary
vocational programs, they could pose ethical dilemmas in the development of
recruitment programs at community and 2-year colleges and thus bear brief
explanation. Opponents of no-need scholarships point out that colleges can use
them to "buy" good students and that, although the practice may make sense in
the short run, its long-term effect is simply to raise costs throughout the
entire system. The problem with early deadlines is that they may force students
to commit themselves to a certain school before they can fully evaluate all
their options. "Payment for enrollees" refers to paying staff or representatives
on the basis of the students they recruit. This does not mean, however, that
schools should not actively encourage their staff to develop marketing skills
and to provide training to foster such development. In fact, in an article on
avoiding and stemming abuses in academic marketing, Litten (1981) advocates
recognizing and rewarding marketing strategies that "protect long-term
individual and social interests in the face of pressures to serve short-term
interests" (p. 113).
Litten also stresses that the service nature of education introduces many
marketing peculiarities to which business and government ventures are not
subject, including the direct involvement of "all components of the
administration/faculty/student mix which constitute the educational resources"
of the school (p. 111).
The idea that vocational education has special ethical responsibilities to
those it serves is not new. In 1909, Parsons, who is referred to as the "father
of guidance," stressed that no one should choose a vocation without careful
self-analysis and thorough and honest guidance with respect to available
occupations and the conditions of becoming successful in them (O'Neill, 1985).
The key, then, is to strike a balance between vocational education's special
service orientation and the need to address the problem of declining enrollments
in an effective, businesslike manner.
CAN RECRUITMENT BE BOTH EFFECTIVE AND ETHICAL?
O'Neill concludes that the recruitment and selection of students for AVTS
must be developed in full consideration of "declining enrollments, increasing
student costs, student readiness for career decision making, attitudes toward
vocational education, and the lack of criteria for predicting student success in
vocational programs" (1985, p. 60). This combination of a concern for sound
marketing techniques and student welfare is reflected in O'Neill's
recommendations to AVTS personnel. On the one hand, he encourages AVTS
instructors and counselors to work actively to overcome sending school
protectionism resulting from declining enrollments. On the other hand, he
expresses concern that students be provided with accurate occupational
information and that those persons providing students with occupational
information and career counseling make an allowance for the fact that junior
high school students may not be completely ready to make occupational and
WHAT ARE ETHICAL AND EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES?
The literature contains extensive evidence that marketing and recruitment
strategies can be both effective and ethical. The Pennsylvania and Florida
vocational programs examined by O'Neill (1985) and Waltz and Beeman (1985)
attack the problem of improving recruitment strategies from the perspective of
improving the product being marketed. On the basis of the recruitment strategies
found to be successful in these programs, persons developing recruitment
programs should consider the following principles of sound marketing while not
forgetting vocational education's fundamental responsibility to its students:
--Research the Market. In both Pennsylvania and Florida, efforts were made to
identify the specific needs and interests of the local student population. These
were weighted against labor market research to ensure that the product being
marketed (vocational courses) was indeed of value in the local job market or
would be (through job development activities) and that customers (students)
would have an accurate idea of what they were buying.
--Be Visible. In both states, vocational programs were given a high profile
and the hands-on nature of vocational education was highlighted through visits
to the vocational schools, demonstrations at sending schools, and publicity
materials. Efforts were made to make presentations optimistic but at the same
--Be Thorough. Marketing efforts were not limited to potential students but
were instead designed to reach parents, peers, sending school personnel (in the
form of workshops on vocational education), and the community at large. This
broad-spectrum approach is not only justified by research confirming the
importance of parents and peers in students' enrollment decisions, but also has
the long-term benefit of enhancing vocational education's image overall.
--Be Aggressive. In Florida particularly, a wide range of media was used to
present vocational education in its most positive light, and ancillary services
were developed to overcome customers' (potential students') reluctance "to buy"
(i.e., barriers preventing potential students from enrolling). In all cases,
however, attempts were made to obtain the most accurate information, and no
false claims were made.
--Meet the Competition Head On. The emphasis in Pennsylvania on improving
working relationships between AVTS and sending school personnel through
coordination is a positive step toward reducing negative attitudes toward
vocational education on the part of sending school staff.
--Practice the Fundamentals of Good Marketing. The efforts made in both
states to train vocational educators in the use of marketing and recruitment
strategies and in evaluating their effectiveness and appropriateness are crucial
to the ability to convey the benefits of vocational education to a wider
audience and thus boost enrollments.
Waltz and others (1984) have published a recruitment package for
postsecondary vocational education that could also serve as a source of ideas
for secondary school staff responsible for developing marketing and recruitment
materials and campaigns.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Fiske, Edward B. "Ethical Issues in Recruiting Students." NEW DIRECTIONS FOR
HIGHER EDUCATION 33 (1981): 41-48.
Litten, Larry H. "Avoiding and Stemming Abuses in Academic Marketing."
COLLEGE AND UNIVERSITY 56 (1981): 105-122.
O'Neill, Edmund J. "A Study of Student Recruitment and Selection for Area
Vocational Technical Schools in Pennsylvania and Selected Vocational Educators'
Opinions Concerning the Process." Ph.D. diss., Pennsylvania State University,
1985. ED 259 140.
Waltz, Freddie C., Larry R. Arrington, Jimmy G. Cheek, and Carl E. Beeman.
RECRUITMENT PACKAGE FOR POSTSECONDARY VOCATIONAL EDUCATION. Gainesville:
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1984. ED 247
Waltz, Freddie C., and Carl E. Beeman. A COMPENDIUM OF RESEARCH ADDRESSING
BARRIERS TO STUDENT RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN
FLORIDA. FINAL REPORT FROM SEPTEMBER 1, 1984, TO DECEMBER 31, 1984. Gainesville:
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 1985. ED 262