Apparently, at least in a few places in America, vocational education kind of works. Or at least Americans are drawn toward vocational schools. According to a piece by Rob Reuteman at CNBC:

“I didn’t want to take academic classes that wouldn’t get me a job in the long run,” says Nick Guerin, 21, who is studying to be a food service manager in the vocational division of Johnson & Wales University’s Denver campus. ‘”I enjoy that this curriculum is career-oriented,” adds Guerin. “I was always interested in the food industry, and this will give me the background and internships I need to become a restaurant manager or executive chef.”

Call them vocational schools, trade schools or technical schools—it doesn’t much matter. Once considered the poor stepsister to traditional four-year, liberal arts institutions of higher education and a refuge for second-tier students, they’re now at the forefront of preparing students for a 21st century workforce.

Well technically they’re still considered the poor stepsister to traditional four-year colleges. But at least in this economy, sometimes vocational school looks more practical. At least it is if students don’t assume debt to go there.

Currently, for a variety of reasons, a lot of America’s vocational postsecondary institutions are for-profit schools. They’re the expensive ones. The cheap schools, the community colleges, are not so great at vocational education. Maybe it’s time to correct that problem.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer