Vocational Education’s Image for the 21st Century Essay

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Vocational Education’s Image for the 21st Century

These are hard times for secondary vocational education. Leaders of the new school reform movement do not give it high priority. They assume that it is separate from general education, has little educational value, and should be replaced by a predominantly academic curriculum. At best vocational courses are expected to provide students who are not college bound with minimal training for low-status jobs at entry level (Silberman 1986). Ask a vocational educator to name the most serious issues facing the field today, and most will rank "our image problem" high on the list ("What Do People Think of Us?"1997, p. 14)

The "image problem" has been pervasive over the past 10 years as
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The reasons varied, but the one most often cited was public image: negative baggage associated with the word "vocational" (Ries 1997).

This ERIC Digest gives a brief overview of strategic marketing and how it can build a stronger image for vocational education.

Let's Get Serious about Image Building

In recent years, industries such as health care, finance, and law have been aggressively marketing their services. This departure from tradition is a response to sweeping changes in technology, demographics, and new customer demands. Vocational education, like other service industries, must respond to such change. Vocational education has much to gain from capitalizing on the benefits of a comprehensive marketing approach. For a number of years, marketing professionals have urged vocational educators to get serious about image building. Some of their more pertinent advice follows.

Shields (1989) feels that vocational education can weather the assaults on its contributions to school by aggressively marketing itself. He offers these steps for marketing vocational education:

1. Identify internal (teachers, counselors, students, school board members) and external (parents, taxpayers, civic groups, and professional organizations) markets you want to "sell" on vocational education.

2. Build your network and tap into it. Assign each staff person

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