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Business

Not your father's tech school

Recently, I've had the opportunity to visit our local vacational/technical school several times. When I was a kid, the voc tech school was only for dropouts, burnouts, and pregnant girls, with the occasional budding mechanic thrown in for good measure.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Recently, I've had the opportunity to visit our local vacational/technical school several times. When I was a kid, the voc tech school was only for dropouts, burnouts, and pregnant girls, with the occasional budding mechanic thrown in for good measure. This couldn't be further from the case now and I only wish that a modern vocational school was available to me growing up.

I was convinced in high school that I was going to be a doctor (it only took me three changes in majors in college to figure out that blood and I don't mix). How useful, though, even if I'd stayed pre-med, would four years of hands-on work in health occupations/nursing have been? Or a solid background in IT? Or, to be honest, auto mechanics or plumbing?

This wouldn't have been a problem for someone with an academic focus since modern tech schools combine rigorous academics with practical, hands-on education in important, relevant skills. Go figure: a doctor who can service her own car or understand the medical records database in his office. How about a drug company executive with a strong background in nursing who can work proficiently with clinicians in a clinical trial?

One of the most brilliant doctors with whom I ever had the opportunity to work during my clinical trial days at Johns Hopkins built violins in his spare time. My mentor for years was a world-renowned epidemiologist who could also build a house if he wanted to (and, in fact, gave me advice on a number of construction projects).

Doesn't it seem like a good idea to walk out of high school, not only with the ability to attend the college of your choice without remediation, but also have a useful set of skills in your pocket? There isn't much I can't do with a computer and I'm a pretty fair writer and communicator, but installing a new dishwasher almost got the best of me last weekend.

Tech schools obviously aren't for everyone. However, their focus on hands-on, practical work, as well as rigorous and relevant education (assuming they are well-implemented) makes them a great choice for kinesthetic and motivated learners as well as those who intend to enter a trade directly after school.

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