Youth unemployment today is roughly 3 times the national unemployment rate. The reason: too few US high school students graduate with marketable skills. The erosion of vocational education, apprenticeships and traineeships in the nation's secondary schools has practically guaranteed this tragic situation.
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Other economically healthy nations place far more emphasis on vocational education, apprenticeships an dtraineeships, with low youth unemployment one reward. Switzerland, for example, has around 3 percent unemployed young people. Germany has about 6 percent. Among northern and central European countries, vocational training is part of mainstream education; between 40 percent and 70 percent of high-school students opt for vocational education, which combines both classroom and on-the-job learning over three years. On completion, they have a qualification that carries real weight in the labor market and a pathway to even higher levels of education and earnings.
Fortunately, the occupation-oriented associate degrees offered by the nation's community and technical colleges have opened doors of opportunity to millions of young people who never had the benefit of "voc ed." Millions more should follow their lead. So, too, should the 53 percent of recent college grads who are either unemployed or underemployed. Let's face it: A four-year degree in history, English, or sociology might not be a winning ticket in today's job market. But couple that baccalaureate with an associate degree in radiation therapy, robotics, dental hygiene, nursing, or information system, and you have a winning skillset needed in today's economy.