Vocational education

In the United States, vocational education varies from state to state. Roughly 70 percent of all postsecondary technical and vocational training is provided by proprietary (privately owned) career schools. The remaining 30 percent is provided primarily by two-year community colleges, which also offer courses transferable to four-year universities, military technical training, and government-operated adult education centers. Several states operate their own institutes of technology which are on an equal accreditational footing with other state universities.

Historically, junior high schools and high schools have offered vocational courses such as home economics, wood and metal shop, typing, business courses, drafting and auto repair, though schools have put more emphasis on academics for all students because of standards based education reform. School to Work is a series of federal and state initiatives to link academics to work, sometimes including spending time during the day on a job site without pay.

Federal involvement is principally carried out through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Accountability requirements tied to the receipt of federal funds under this Act help provide some overall leadership. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education within the US Department of Education also supervises activities funded by the Act.

The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest private association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. Its members include CTE teachers, administrators, and researchers.

Coming from a critical pedagogical perspective Joe L. Kincheloe has provided an alternative view of vocational education, its history and its outcomes. In Kincheloe's work vocational education has often reflected the perspectives of dominant political economic power, working more in the interests of large corporations and business interests than in the needs of vocational educational students. Too often vocational education became a marker of "academic failure" rather than a ticket to good paying, high status jobs. Kincheloe's two books on the topic, Toil and Trouble: Good Work, Smart Workers, and the Integration of Academic and Vocational Education and How Do We Tell the Workers? The Socio-Economic Foundations of Work and Vocational Education have become critical vocational education classics.