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Summary Unemployment among young people is a serious and persistent problem in this country. Unemployment rates are especially high among members of minority groups, for high-school dropouts, and in economically depressed areas. The structural changes in the economy in the past 40 years have far-reaching implications for the skills that young workers will need and for the education and training that will increase their employability. Vocational education and other training programs can help to alleviate the problem of unemployment among America's young people. And a close link between schools and employers can help ensure that vocational education programs are teaching students the skills that employers will need. Vocational education is a vital part of the public education system in this country, one that has long been slighted in favor of academic education. Basic academic as well as occupational skills are of fundamental impor- tance in preparing young people for productive lives in our society. The public elementary and secondary schools in this country should offer students who will not go to college a thorough grounding not only in language skills, reasoning, and mathematics, but also in the mechanical and technical skills and work habits that will prepare them for working life. This responsibility should not be shifted to private-sector employers, although employers can help significantly in ways we outline in the report. Evaluations of vocational education and other employment training pro- grams lead to the conclusion that some vocational education programs do improve the employability of graduates. But the quality of vocational education programs overall is highly variable and the access of dis 1
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2 EDUCATION FOR TOMORROW'S JOBS advantaged students to good programs is not ensured. The committee recommends expanded collaboration between vocational educators and private-sector employers as well as improved coordination between vocational education and employment training programs. Well- designed work experience programs help to improve occupational skills and to open employment opportunities for vocational education students. We recommend several changes intended to strengthen the capabilities of teachers of vocational education: changes in certification requirements, pre-service and in-service training, use of part-time teachers, and pay scales of teachers. We recommend three policy changes to improve the financing of vocational education programs: modifications in the formulas for fund- ing programs, strategies for pooling equipment, and supplementary funding for program improvement. Because of our concern about the limited access of disadvantaged students to high-quality programs, we also recommend experimentation with vocational incentive grants to individual students, which they could use to purchase the training they desire, and attention to consumer protection in vocational education programs.