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Vocational Education Training

Updated on November 18, 2009

History of Vocational Education

In earliest times, most vocational training was done within the family. As time passed, craft guilds began setting standards of workmanship and training apprentices. With the increase in machine industry and mass production in the last few centuries, a need arose for larger numbers of semi-skilled or skilled workers. Publicly supported trade schools were established in several European nations starting in the 18th century.

In the 19th century the United States began to establish technical institutes, such as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at Troy, N.Y.; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at Boston, Mass.; and Cooper Union, at New York City; but these institutes served only a small number of students. The tremendous expansion of railroads, factories, business, and agriculture after the Civil War created a serious shortage of skilled labor. In the 1870's and 1880's manual training was introduced in the secondary schools. In 1906 a group of educators and businessmen formed the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education, which later merged with other groups to become the American Vocational Association. From that time vocational education grew rapidly.

World War I provided a great impetus to vocational education because of the rapid industrialization produced by wartime needs. The U.S. government in 1917 passed the Smith-Hughes Act, granting 7 million dollars a year of federal funds for the promotion of vocational education. This sum was increased to 29 million dollars by the George Barden Act of 1946, when World War II vastly increased the demand for skilled and highly skilled workmen.

The war and the rapid expansion of the postwar years created a need around the world for men and women who could handle the complex machines, techniques, and procedures of modern industrial society. The Soviet Union by law required more practical training of youths along polytechnic lines. Canada expanded its facilities for technical education to house war emergency classes and then turned these facilities to peacetime use. In England a program of part-tune vocational studies for young workers was successfully launched, and France established special normal schools to train teachers for instructing at apprenticeship centers and technical colleges. Venezuela added a department of crafts, industry and commerce to its educational administration. Uganda and other emerging nations established rural schools for crafts and farming and agricultural and technical institutes.

In the United States a series of laws expanded vocational education opportunities. In 1958 the National Defense Education Act allocated $15,000,000 a year for highly skilled technician training, and the Area Redevelopment Act of 1961 authorized $4,500,000 a year for training unemployed or underemployed persons in redevelopment areas where new industry was being introduced. The Manpower Development and Training Act of 1962, expanded by the Manpower Act of 1965, authorized $20,000,000 a year for job retraining of persons displaced by automation or other changes in the economy and set up federal on-the-job and apprenticeship programs. The Vocational Education Act of 1963 greatly broadened federal aid to states for improving vocational education. This act provides help for all occupations short of the professional level, for workers of all ages and all levels, for rural and urban workers, for the employed, as well as the unemployed and underemployed, and for school dropouts, as well as students. It provides for vocational residential schools, vocational guidance, and research and experiment in vocational education.


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