Vocational Education

Vocational education, also called Career and Technical Education (CTE)) prepares learners for careers that are based in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and directly related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation, hence the term, in which the learner participates. It is sometimes referred to as technical education, as the learner directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology.

Generally, vocation and career are used interchangeably. Vocational education might be contrasted with education in a usually broader scientific field, which might concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge, characteristic of tertiary education. Vocational education can be at the secondary or post-secondary level and can interact with the apprenticeship system. Increasingly, vocational education can be recognized in terms of recognition of prior learning and partial academic credit towards tertiary education (e.., at a university) as credit however, it is rarely considered in its own form to fall under the traditional definition of a higher education.

Up until the end of the twentieth century, vocational education focused on specific trades such as for example, an automobile mechanic or welder, and was therefore associated with the activities of lower social classes. As a consequence, it attracted a level of stigma. Vocational education is related to the age-old apprenticeship system of learning.

However, as the labor market becomes more specialized and economies are demanding higher levels of skills, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education through publicly funded training organizations and subsidized apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses. At the post-secondary level vocational education is typically provided by an institute of technology, or by a local community college.

Vocational education has diversified over the 20th century and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism, information technology, funeral services and cosmetics, as well as in the traditional crafts and cottage industries.

In the USA, vocational schools are usually a post-secondary school, but in some instances may take the place of the final years of high school. They may be public schools and as such are operated by a government, school district or other officially-sanctioned group, in which case they may or may not charge tuition. Most purely vocational schools are private schools; within this group they may be further subdivided into non-profit schools and proprietary schools, operated for the economic benefit of their owners. For a long time many proprietary vocational schools had a poor reputation for quality in many instances, and for over promising what the job prospects for their graduates would actually be; this has been largely corrected by more stringent regulation. The term career college is reserved for post-secondary for-profit institutions.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest American national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers. ACTE's core purpose is to provide leadership in developing an educated, prepared, and competitive workforce.

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