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Vocational-Technical Education and the Law

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The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act, Public Law 101-392, defines vocational-technical education as organized educational programs offering sequences of courses directly related to preparing individuals for paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree. Programs include competency-based applied learning, which contributes to an individual's academic knowledge, higher-order reasoning, problem-solving skills, and the occupational-specific skills necessary for economic independence as a productive and contributing member of society.

The total appropriation for Perkins was $1.1 billion dollars in-1997. States received these funds in the form of $1 billion for their state basic grants and $100 million for tech prep. All states receive funds for secondary and postsecondary education. In 1994, Perkins provided approximately one-tenth of the total state expenditures on vocational-technical education.

Tech Prep Education

Tech prep education is a significant innovation in the education reform movement in the United States. Tech prep was given major emphasis in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act of 1990 and was amended in the School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994.

Tech Prep education is a 4+2, 3+2, or a 2+2 planned sequence of study in a technical field beginning as early as the ninth year of school. The sequence extends through two years of postsecondary occupational education or an apprenticeship program of at least two years following secondary instruction, and culminates in an associate degree or certificate.

Tech prep is an important school-to-work transition strategy, helping all students make the connection between school and employment.

The Perkins law requires that tech prep programs have seven elements:
  1. an articulation agreement between secondary and postsecondary consortium participants

  2. a 2+2, 3+2, or 4+2 design with a common core of proficiency in math, science, communication, and technology

  3. a specifically developed tech prep curriculum

  4. joint, in-service training of secondary and postsecondary teachers to implement the tech prep curriculum effectively

  5. training of counselors to recruit students and to ensure program completion and appropriate employment

  6. equal access of special populations to the full range of tech prep programs

  7. preparatory services such as recruitment, career and personal counseling, and occupational assessment
States are required to give priority consideration to tech prep programs that: offer effective employment placement; transfer to four-year baccalaureate programs; are developed in consultation with business, industry, labor unions, and institutions of higher education that award baccalaureate degrees; and address dropout prevention and re-entry and the needs of special populations.

Student outcomes include: an associate degree or a two-year certificate; technical preparation in at least one field of engineering technology, applied science, mechanical, industrial, or practical art or trade, or agriculture, health, or business; competence in math, science, and communication; employment.


Employment growth of adult vocational-technical education teachers will result from the need to train young adults for entry-level jobs and experienced workers who want to switch fields or whose jobs have been eliminated because of changing technology or business reorganization.

In addition, increased cooperation between businesses and educational institutions to ensure that students are taught the skills employers desire should result in greater demand for adult education teachers, particularly at community and junior colleges.

Since adult education programs receive state and federal funding, employment growth may be affected by government budgets.

The job market for secondary school teachers varies widely by geographic area and by subject specialty. Many inner cities characterized by high crime rates, high poverty rates, and over-crowded conditions-and rural areas-characterized by their remote location and relatively low salaries-have difficulty attracting enough teachers, so job prospects should continue to be better in these areas than in suburban districts.

Teachers who are geographically mobile and who obtain licensure in more than one subject should have a distinct advantage in finding a job. With enrollments of minorities increasing, coupled with a shortage of minority teachers, efforts to recruit minority teachers should intensify.

Employment of secondary school teachers is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the years to come. Assuming relatively little change in average class size, employment growth of teachers depends on population growth rates and corresponding student enrollments. Enrollment of fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds is expected to grow through the years to come.
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