The Economist has an article here describing the dual education system in Germany. About two-thirds of German youths choose (or are only eligible for) a vocational track, that places them in a job for three or four days a week, and then has them return to school for the remaining time. Germany’s unemployment rate for young people is one of the lowest in Europe, and many people credit their education system for producing employable young people.
While I’m not in favor of the wholesale dual tracking that Germany does, I do think our schools should offer more vocational/technical courses. In 1980 I was teaching in an excellent public school, in a very affluent town, that had a vibrant Industrial Arts department. Many students—even those going on to Ivy League colleges—took courses there. A few of the more popular courses were drafting, carpentry, and auto repair. Today, I’m sure, there would be courses utilizing computer technology.
Except, of course, the department is gone now. First state assessment tests, and now the Common Core assessments, are driving out such courses. That’s too bad. They helped many students get established in good, solid careers. They even helped the students who went on to professional careers. It’s good to know how to do a little carpentry or woodworking. Even better, it’s good to gain respect for people who makes their living doing blue collar jobs.