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Vocational Classes in High School

Vocational classes focus on teaching a skill or trade that can be used to prepare for college or a career. Taking vocational classes in high school is a good way to get a jump start on your future, whether it be finding a job or continuing your education.

There are two main ways that vocational classes are offered in high schools. They may be part of an entire program, often now called Career (and) Technical Education (CTE). Alternatively, they may be elective courses in a high school that focuses on college preparatory and non-vocational courses. This article discusses both types of vocational classes in high schools.

Two Ways to Take Vocational Classes

Here’s an example of how vocational classes in high school work in the twenty-first century.

Vocational Classes in Programs

In Chittenden County in northwest Vermont, there is a Center for Technology in Essex (CTE). It serves the region, including students from ten high schools and offers programs in four areas: Applies Sciences, Health and Human/Public Services, Business Information Technology, and Applied Arts. The programs are these:

Applied Sciences Academy

  • Automotive Technology
  • Building Technology
  • Engineering & Architectural Design
  • Natural Resources & Agriscience Technology

Health and Human Services/Public Services Academy

  • Childhood Education/Human Services
  • Cosmetology
  • Dental Assisting
  • Professional Foods 1 and 2
  • Ophthalmic Medical Assisting
  • Health Informatics

Business Information Technology Academy

  • Business Technology
  • Computer Systems Technology

Applied Arts Academy

  • Computer Animation/Web Design
  • Graphic Design & Digital Publishing

Vocational Classes as Electives

But, the fact that those classes are considered vocational classes doesn’t mean that none of them are available to students in college preparatory programs. Here are some areas of overlap for students who, for example, attend Champlain Valley High School (CVU). Notice that not every area available at the vocational center is also available to non-technical students, and even those areas that are available are not treated in as much depth.

  • Automotive Technology students learn far more than how to repair a car, but college-bound students can learn basic car and home repair in Auto and Home Maintenance and Repair.
  • Building Technology students learn tool identification and safety while working with a variety of materials including wood, pipes, sheet rock, etc. Non-technical students can take Basic Wood and Advanced Wood to get a feel for joinery, woodworking, and construction techniques or Metal Fabrication to learn about working with metal.
  • Engineering & Architectural Design students learn technical drafting and move on to mechanical or architectural design. Non-technical students can take Design Tech I in which they use Computer Aided Design (CAD) to create both 2- and 3-D projects and go on to II and III in which they get beginning experience in engineering.
  • Childhood Education/Human Services students get much broader background in education and experience working with children, but non-technical students can study Child Psychology and Development can explore some topics theoretically.
  • Professional Foods 1 and 2 students learn about food products and food preparation and gain experience in culinary terminology and practice. Non-technical students can take Cooking and Eating Well, in which they get to learn about basic cooking techniques as well as healthy food choices.
  • Business Technology students learn computer applications including Microsoft Office Suite. Non-technical students can learn the same programs in Computer Applications.
  • Business Technology students also learn elements of business organization, including sales, marketing, entrepreneurship, and customer service. Non-technical students can study Entrepreneurship, during which they create their own business plan, and Principles of Business.
  • Computer Animation/Web Design students design websites. Non-technical students can learn about Web Design in Computer Applications I

Choosing a Path

In this particular scenario, the CTE programs are one or two years. This means that a student has several years of high school before having to decide on which path to follow. Therefore the first two years of high school can be used to experiment with the courses offered in the non-technical environment both to see whether the student has enough interest and aptitude to pursue a CTE path.

You can make a similar comparison to that above for the schools in your neighborhood or district. Using the websites or getting access to school catalogs, see how the non-technical program lines up with the technical program to help chart a course that will allow a considered choice to be made at the appropriate time. Visits to guidance counselors at both the high school and the technical center may also prove useful.