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History of Vocational Education in High Schools Research Paper

The development of Smith-Hughes Act in 1917 marked the beginning of vocational education. At this time, training in vocational education was practical as it sought to orient learners about business and working in industries.

Introduction of new courses in fields like industrial arts, marketing and health was essential to match the needs of the economy during the 20th century. The function of Smith-Hughes Act was to offer a different curriculum to youths and prepare them for jobs following industrial revolution.

It distinguished academic training from vocational training and ratified new syllabus for high school learners whose interest was to work in manual jobs.

Starting in 1930, the federal government offered vocational education to cut down levels of joblessness and in 1940’s, for war purposes. Later in 1950’s and 1960’s, low-grade colleges offered vocational education.

However, the federal laws focused on equipping the youth with skills to work in industries, agriculture and business fields. In 1963, the Vocational Education Act came into place and it introduced many changes to the federal policies. The Act concentrated on special needs of some learners as well as youths in hardship regions.

Such youths had trouble in assessing educations as well as other basic needs. The Act was further revised in 1968 and 1972 to merge disadvantaged learners, learners preparing to take vocational jobs as well as post secondary students (Lynch, 2000).

In 1984, the legislature ratified the Carl D. Perkin Vocational Act. This Act sought to enhance vocational programs as well as increase opportunities of accessing education among learners with special needs (Gordon, 2003).

In 1994, Congress ratified the School-Work Opportunities Act (STWOA) after realizing that most high school learners in the United States joined the employment world without adequate skills, or relevant degrees. The congress ratified the STWOA to deal with the problem of inefficiency due to lack of skills.

The Act then formed a program whereby employers could interact with educators. The STWOA formed pathways with subjects related to jobs to make the high school syllabus more fit.

The Association between school instruction and work environment offered learners internships and other work-related experiences. Most schoolwork courses consisted of high school subjects with post-secondary leaning within 2 to 4 years.

The program sought to give learners work related experiences in post secondary education and not training them for particular jobs following high schools (Stern, Dayton, & Raby, 2000).

During the late 1980’s, there was an increase in the number of learners with special needs who needed high school vocational education programs. This occurred due to students selecting academic subjects that led them towards achieving post secondary education.

Additional amendments to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Act in 1990 and 1998 called for the use of national funding to enhance learners’ performance. The 1998 Act required more funding on high school learners, while the 1990 Act focused on development of academic norms.

The Perkins Act of 1998 did not particularly focus on vulnerable learners, or those with disabilities. Rather, it sought to address the needs of learners who joined vocational programs.

It also sought to facilitate development of vocational, technical and academic skills of learners by making sure they were high standards in vocational programs. Individual nations had the role of offering vocational services to special groups, but the federal government had no control over the nature of services rendered.

Federal laws in the amendment specified the main performance indicators that states had to report. First, every state was to give a report on realization of academics as well as vocational skills.

Second, states were to report on the number of learners who attained a certificate in general education, or in secondary qualification.

Third, they were to give reports on institutions where placement of learners occurred, rates of retention in those institutions as well as the number of learners who completed post secondary education. They also had to give a report on the number of learners who joined the military service either as interns, or as trainees.

Lastly, states were to give a report on involvement in and attainment of programs that promoted unconventional preparation and employment.

The Perkins Act of 1998 called for learners to get education and training for work to meet the needs of the globally competitive job market. It is clear that the workplace needs a more educated workforce that can cope with current advancements.

A key notable difference between earlier learning and current education for job market is that the society lacks the ability to distinguish learners into those with vocational curriculum and those with classified curriculum.

Vocational education in the current world continues, as the workforce requires both theory and practice. Career academies campaign for educational reforms due to the need to combine technical, vocational and academic knowledge in the current work environment.

Besides, career academies attempt to comply with the requirements of the 1998 Perkins Act through preparing learners for workplace. Current programs that aid this include Tech Prep as well as direct training in universities and colleges.


Gordon, H. (2003). History and growth of vocational education in America. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.

Lynch, R. L. (2000). New directions for high school career and technical education for the first decade of the 21st century. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and 114 Technical Education.

Stern, D., Raby, M., & Dayton, C. (2000). Career academies: Partnerships for reconstructing American high schools. San Francisco, Los Angeles: Jossey-Bass

This Research Paper on History of Vocational Education in High Schools was written and submitted by user Fernando Zamora to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Fernando Zamora studied at the University of Tulsa, USA, with average GPA 3.44 out of 4.0.

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Zamora, Fernando. "History of Vocational Education in High Schools." IvyPanda, 1 July 2019,

1. Fernando Zamora. "History of Vocational Education in High Schools." IvyPanda (blog), July 1, 2019.


Zamora, Fernando. "History of Vocational Education in High Schools." IvyPanda (blog), July 1, 2019.


Zamora, Fernando. 2019. "History of Vocational Education in High Schools." IvyPanda (blog), July 1, 2019.


Zamora, F. (2019) 'History of Vocational Education in High Schools'. IvyPanda, 1 July.

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