The state of Louisiana, recognizing that not all high school students in the state can or want to go to college, and concerned that the promotion of a college preparatory program was damaging to students with no interest in going to college, is doing something interesting. Starting soon the state’s high schools will begin trying to offer an elite vocational education. Can this work?

According to an article by Danielle Dreilinger of The Times-Picayune:

A proposal to the state education board Friday would rejuvenate the high school “career diploma,” promising to open high-paying jobs to graduates – without

Louisiana Education Superintendent John White has been hammering away at the career education issue for a year.


White considers the initiative both a moral and business necessity. Only 28 percent of Louisiana’s high school students earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in college, according to the state Education Department. Meanwhile, Louisiana’s powerhouse industries — energy, agriculture, commerce — have jobs that go begging. These jobs don’t require a college degree but do demand some advanced technical training.

Under the plan, the career diploma would be pretty intense, requiring “at least nine course units in one of 10 fields: construction crafts; agriculture, food and natural resources; architecture and construction; arts, audiovisual technology and communication; health science; hospitality and tourism; human services; information technology; manufacturing; transportation, distribution and logistics.”

And then at the end students would get a credential approved by the relevant state employers.

This looks like an interesting idea. One of the bigger problems with American education is that high school vocational training has long been sort of second-rate. It’s all well and good to talk about the high-paying jobs available as automotive mechanics or plumbers or electricians to those who don’t go to college, but high schools don’t offer training in these fields, students don’ t have much choice except to slog through courses that don’t really lead to any meaningful career.

The question is how connected such degrees will be to actual employment. It’s all well and good to say that these new high school diplomas will be connected to the skills employers say they want.

The important point is whether or not the business will really hire these graduates for available, high-paying jobs. What would be most effective, in terms of helping the students, would be the promise of a good job offer upon successful completion of the programs. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

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