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A vocational school, trade school, or career school, providing vocational education, is a school in which students are taught the skills needed to perform a particular job. Traditionally, vocational schools have not existed to further education in the area of liberal arts, but rather to teach only job-specific skills, and as such have been better considered to be institutions devoted to training, and not liberal arts education. That purely vocational focus began changing in the 1990s "toward a broader preparation that develops the academic" and technical skills of students, as well as the vocational.
Vocational schools were called Technical Colleges in Australia and there were more than 20 schools specializing in Vocational Educational Training (VET). Only four Technical Colleges remain and these are now referred to as Trade Colleges. At these colleges, students complete a modified Year 12 certificate and commence a school-based apprenticeship in a trade of their choice. There are two Trade Colleges in Queensland; Brisbane, Australian Trade College and the Gold Coast, Australian Industry Trade College and one in Adelaide, St Patrick's Technical College and another in Perth, Australian Trades College.
In Queensland, students can also undertake Vocational Educational Training at private and public high schools instead of studying for their OP or Overall Position which is a tertiary entrance score. However these students usually undertake more limited vocational education of one day per week whereas in the trade colleges the training is longer.
Vocational schools are sometimes called colleges in Canada. However, a college may also refer to an institution that offers part of a university degree, or credits that may be transferred to a university.
In Ontario, secondary schools were separated into three streams: Technical Schools, Commercial/Business Schools and Collegiates (the academic schools). Those schools still exist; however, the curriculum has changed that no matter which type of school one attends, they can still attend any post-secondary institution and still study a variety of subjects (either academic or practical).
In Ontario, Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities have divided postsecondary education into Universities, Community Colleges and Private Career Colleges.
In the province of Quebec, there are some vocational programs offered at institutions called CEGEP's (Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel), but these too may function as an introduction to university. Generally students complete two years at a CEGEP directly out of high school, and then complete three years at a university (rather than the usual four), to earn an undergraduate degree. Alternatively some CEGEP's offer vocational training, but it is more likely that vocational training will be found at institutions separate from the academic institutions, though they may still be called colleges.
PTU is usually a preparatory vocational education and is equivalent to the general education of the third degree in the former Soviet education, providing a lower level of vocational education (apprenticeship). It could be compared to a trade high school. In the 1920-30s such PTUs were called as schools of factory and plant apprenticeship and later 1940s - vocational schools. Sometime after 1959 the name of PTU was established, however, with the reorganization of the Soviet educational system these vocational schools renamed into lyceums. There were several types of PTUs such as Middle City PTU and Rural PTU.
Technical college (technicum) is becoming an obsolete term for a college in different parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Technicums provided a middle level of vocational education. Aside of technicums and PTU there also were vocational schools (Russian: Профессиональные училища) that also provided a middle level of vocational education. In 1920-30s Ukraine, technicums were a (technical) vocational institutes, however, during the 1930-32s Soviet educational reform they were degraded in their accreditation.
Institutes were considered a higher level of education, however, unlike universities they were more oriented to a particular trade. With the reorganization of the Soviet education system, most institutes have been renamed as technical universities.
The Finnish system is divided between vocational and academic paths. Currently about 47 percent of Finnish students at age 15 go to vocational school. The vocational school is a secondary school for ages 16–21, and prepares the students for entering the workforce. The curriculum includes little academic general education, while the practical skills of each trade are stressed. The education is divided into eight main categories with a total of about 50 trades. The basic categories of education are
In addition to these categories administered by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Interior provides vocational education in the security and rescue branch for policemen, prison guards and firefighters.
The vocational schools are usually owned by the municipalities, but in special cases, private or state vocational schools exist. The state grants aid to all vocational schools on the same basis, regardless of the owner. On the other hand, the vocational schools are not allowed to operate for profit. The Ministry of Education issues licences to provide vocational education. In the licence, the municipality or a private entity is given permission to train a yearly quota of students for specific trades. The licence also specifies the area where the school must be located and the languages used in the education.
The vocational school students are selected by the schools on the basis of criteria set by the Ministry of Education. The basic qualification for the study is completed nine-year comprehensive school. Anyone may seek admission in any vocational school regardless of their domicile. In certain trades, bad health or invalidity may be acceptable grounds for refusing admission. The students do not pay tuition and they must be provided with health care and a free daily school lunch. However, the students must pay for the books, although the tools and practice material are provided to the students for free.
In tertiary education, there are higher vocational schools (ammattikorkeakoulu which is translated to polytechnic or university of applied sciences), which give about 3-4 -year degrees in more involved fields, like engineering (see insinööri (amk)) or nursing.
In contrast to the vocational school, an academically orientated upper secondary school, or senior high school (Finnish: lukio) teaches no vocational skills. It prepares for entering the university or a higher vocational school.
A vocational school in Ireland is a type of secondary education school which places a large emphasis on vocational and technical education; this led to some conflict in the 1960s when the Regional Technical College system was in development. Since 2013 the schools have been managed by Education and Training Boards, which replaced Vocational Education Committees which were largely based on city or county boundaries. Establishment of the schools is largely provided by the state; funding is through block grant system providing about 90% of necessary funding requirements.
Vocational schools typically have further education courses in addition to the traditional courses at secondary level. For instance, Post Leaving Certificate Courses which are intended for school leavers and pre-third level education students.
Until the 1970s the vocational schools were seen as inferior to the other schools then available in Ireland. This was mainly because traditional courses such as the Leaving Certificate were not available at the schools, however this changed with the Investment in Education (1962) report which resulted in an upgrade in their status. Currently about 25% of secondary education students attend these schools.
In Japan vocational schools are known as senmon gakkō (専門学校?). There are part of Japan's higher education system. They are two-year schools that many students study at after finishing high school (although it is not always required that students graduate from high school). Some have a wide range of majors, others only a few majors. Some examples are computer technology, fashion and English.
In the Middle Ages boys learned a vocation through an apprenticeship. They were usually 10 years old when they entered service, and were first called leerling (apprentice), then gezel (journeyman) and after an exam - sometimes with an example of workmanship called a meesterproef (masterpiece) - they were called meester (master craftsman). In 1795 all of the guilds in the Netherlands were disbanded by Napoleon, and with them the guild vocational schooling system. After the French occupation, in the 1820s, the need for quality education caused more and more cities to form day and evening schools for various trades. In 1854, the society Maatschappij tot verbetering van den werkenden stand (Society to improve the working class) was founded in Amsterdam, that changed its name in 1861 to the Maatschappij voor de Werkende Stand (Society for the working class). This society started the first public vocational school (De Ambachtsschool) in Amsterdam, and many cities followed. At first only for boys, later the Huishoudschool (housekeeping) was introduced as vocational schooling for girls. Housekeeping education began in 1888 with the Haagsche Kookschool in The Hague.
In 1968 the law called the Mammoetwet changed all of this, effectively dissolving the Huishoudschool and the Ambachtsschool. The name was changed to Lagere Technische School (LTS) (lower technical school) where mainly boys went because of its technical nature. The other option, where most girls went was LBO (Lager Beroepsonderwijsl). In 1992 both LTS and LBO changed to VBO (Voorbereidend Middelbaar Beroepsonderwijs) and since 1999 VBO changed to the current VMBO.
In the United States, there is a very large difference between career college and vocational college. The term career college is generally reserved for post-secondary for-profit institutions. Conversely, vocational schools are Government-owned or at least Government-supported institutions, occupy two full years of study, their credits are by and large accepted elsewhere in the academic world and in some instances such as charter academies or magnet schools may take the place of the final years of high school.
Career colleges on the other hand are generally not government supported in any capacity, occupy periods of study less than a year, their training and certifications are largely if not completely discredited by the larger academic world and are run more as a for-profit business than anything else. Put simply, they are not colleges, and professional employers are not fooled. In addition, as most career colleges are private schools; this group may be further subdivided into non-profit schools and proprietary schools, operated for the sole economic benefit of their owners.
As a result of this emphasis on the commercialization of education, a widespread and well-deserved for the period poor reputation for quality was retained by a great number of career colleges for over promising what the job prospects for their graduates would actually be in their field of study upon completion of their program, and for emphasizing the number of careers from which a student could choose. However, although this problem has been largely corrected in modern times due to more stringent regulation. careful research on the career college in question must be performed by the student prior to enrolling in order to get the best value.
Even though career colleges have exploded in recent years, true government-sponsored vocational schools on the other hand have decreased severely in the United States and have largely been replaced by the various alternative trade classes offered at either trade-specific schools or by being merged with their community college cousins, which in addition to offering associate degrees and core university curriculum courses, also offer vocational classes depending on the needs of the local community, all units of which are capable of transferring to four-year institutions.
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest American national education association dedicated to the advancement of career and technical education or vocational education that prepares youth and adults for careers, so the wise prospective student may wish to check with them to see if the school is in good standing with this and other trade organizations.
Even though virtually none of the for-profit career colleges have distinguished themselves in any capacity, a great many true vocational schools have gone on to become some of the most prestigious universities in the world. The California Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University are examples.