Policy Factsheet

School Vocational Training Programs

Reasons for Policy

  • Fewer than half of American birth cohorts ever attain any postsecondary education,1 and for these individuals, traditional high school curricula do not provide occupational skills.2
  • Improving the quality of public schools, the readiness of school leavers, and the competitiveness of the workforce are all high national priorities.3

Community Groups

  • Local Employers
  • Local Government
  • Local School Board

Policy Components

School vocational training should include a variety of school-based and work-based learning opportunities throughout high school including:

  • career exploration and counseling
  • integrated academic and occupational instruction that is focused on high standards of achievement
  • a variety of structured work experiences that teach broad, transferable workplace skills

Desired Outcomes

  • Reduced dropout rates among high risk students
  • Increased job placement and job satisfaction
  • Better wages/job opportunities
  • Individual growth in cognitive and affective areas

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 1: Evidence-Based Policies Meeting Criteria for Effectiveness.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

On average, vocational education programs can:

  • Decrease high school dropout by 6%5
  • Improve job satisfaction by 7%5

Vocational education does not appear to have significant effects on basic academic skills or performance on standardized tests5

Community Examples

Links to Policy Examples


  1. U.S. Bureau of the Census (1992). Statistical Abstract of the United States, (112th ed.). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.  

  2. U.S. Department of Labor (1991). What work requires of schools: A SCANS report for America 2000. Washington, DC.  

  3. National Center on Education and the Economy, (2006). Tough choices or tough times: The report of the new commission on the skills of the American workforce. Josey Bass, Washington, DC.  

  4. Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

  5. Kulik, JA (1994). Curricular tracks and high school vocational education. 1994 National Assessment of Vocational Education, Washington, DC.