- Essex Tech in Massachusetts is turning around its curriculum to combine vocational training with academics so students are prepared to walk into a job, college, or both. They leave with a high school diploma and a professional certification in a field they’ve focus on while in school.
- Professional equipment can be expensive, notes The Hechinger Report. But the program and investment is working, as Essex Tech recently had 1,300 applicants for its less than 400 seats.
- The success of the school has encouraged the state to expand its vocational education training, putting a $45 million Skills Capital Grant Program to work in that regard.
Curriculum designers used to view vocational training and academics in independent silos. One pushed graduates on a path toward higher education, while the other directed students towards jobs after they finished school.
Skills learned from both approaches can benefit students, particularly as employers are increasingly looking for graduates who have so-called soft skills often emphasized in a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. Skills such as empathy, collaboration and communication can be as beneficial in a job as critical thinking and technical abilities. And the number one skill companies search for in job candidates, and have problem finding, is problem solving, according to a 2016 report from the Committee for Children.
“Social and emotional skills, such as problem solving, communication, and collaboration, will become more and more critical as the digital economy transforms the workplace and tradition,” says the report.
When designing curriculum for vocational and technical schools, putting some thought into integrating SEL skills not only benefits students' well-being, but can elevate their hiring potential when they do eventually head out into the working world.