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Decentralization captures the unique and versatile nature of Vocational Education in the United States.
In the late 1800's when Americans began to establish secondary schools, arguments arose about what types of education children should receive, classical or practical. These arguments led to the birth of vocational education, which was implemented in the American education system through Congressional acts starting with President Wilson's signature on the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act on February 23, 1917.
Local communities regulate all primary and secondary levels of education while postsecondary institutions operate independently including vocational education. States create regulation for primary and secondary education as well as create commissions or boards to oversee the operations of postsecondary institutions. The Federal government serves as a support system to promote equal access to education and improve the overall quality of education.
Vocational education is funded in part by local communities and state legislation. Additionally, Congress designates large appropriations to be disbursed by the Department of Education, a Federal agency. When States carry out the vocational education legislative guidelines, they then qualify for the Federal funding.
Through the multi-leveled governance structure that is geared to meet the needs of this nation, vocational education is molded into various forms. At the secondary level vocational education is often introductory and basic. However, some communities provide an intense secondary vocational education, which is regulated by the State.
Postsecondary vocational education is attained through public community colleges, vocational/technical institutions, private trade and technical schools, employment, unions, professional associations, and independent training services. Popular degree programs of yesteryear were trade, industry, and business. Now students are apt to seek careers in healthcare and technology as well as several new cutting edge careers. Some areas of study are available both at the community colleges and universities.
When deciding which vocational studies will be offered for students, decision-makers pay keen attention to the economic trends and workforce development needs of the States. Although manufacturing-based programs are still available, educators are now developing courses of study that center on service industries and communication as the States have shifted from an industrial economy to a service/information economy. Formerly, citizens called for a clear distinction between two types of educational paths: academic or vocational. Today, many citizens understand the need to integrate academic content into vocational training to meet the fast-paced changes of the ever-evolving world and to address the needs of the global economy. Vocational education serves as a valuable resource to counter economic stagnancy.
Vocational education is accessed in a variety of ways and offers many choices to students in their career paths, which is shaped to meet the needs of local communities and explains the many ways that vocational education is obtained. Voices from the local, state, and federal levels generate a vision that leads the United States to respond to the demands of tomorrow.
Decentralization, government through the people and for the people, offers an eccentric, multifaceted arrangement of vocational education.