Business Education

Vocational Business Education

The Business of Vocational Education. ERIC Digest.  October 19, 2015 – 03:27 pm

ERIC Identifier: ED467982
Publication Date:Author: Hennigan, Jamie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.

Businesses and education, once seen as competing enterprises, and at times, fundamental enemies, have recently begun to embrace one another to create a more holistic, well-rounded education that satisfies both the demands for skilled employees as well as knowledgeable, or intellectually capable citizens. Vocational education, for example, has undergone consistent reform in the last decade to satisfy the demands of public, corporate, and government sectors that hold community colleges accountable. Perhaps the most notable element of change has been the active participation of businesses in developing and implementing initiatives in vocational education programs. This digest, drawn from "The New Vocationalism in Community Colleges" (New Directions for Community Colleges, fall 2001), explores various ways in which business has joined with educational institutions to improve vocational education efforts.


Vocational education and the role of the community college have evolved beyond that of traditional entry-level workforce training to include training that will "provide individuals with skill pursue careers in high-wage, high skill occupations" (Jacobs, 2001, p. 93). This metamorphosis, brought about by the changing needs and demands made by the federal government, the private sector, and the business world, has created what is being referred to as "new vocationalism" (Bragg, 2001).

New vocationalism is centered on five core principles as outlined by Bragg (2001). Emphasis is placed upon:

* career clusters that extend from entry-level positions through professional levels in fields considered integral to the new economy.

* an integrated curriculum consisting of both academic and vocational elements.

* more integration into the K-16 educational system and a broader base of economic and social structures.

* active teaching strategies, learner-centered instruction, constructivist theories, and project-based approaches to teaching

* more holistic instruction and a curriculum that is more meaningful in applicability.

Inherent in each of these core principles is the input of business. Active participation by business allows for more comprehensive, tailor-made programs that are mutually beneficial to all parties: students, community colleges, and businesses.


Five favored approaches to new vocationalism can be cited: tech-prep programs, work-based learning programs, articulated vocational education and applied baccalaureate degree programs, certificate programs for credit and noncredit, and contract and customized training programs. Bragg (2001) states that while these specific approaches are popular, no single model or approach works best for all institutions. However, an essential element in making new vocationalism a successful and effective venture is the partnership between the business community and the community college. Purposes behind such partnerships include opportunities to "forecast workforce development needs, develop new training opportunities, identify new student markets, and create training and preparation specializations" (Orr, 2001 p. 41). Orr also states that businesses and educational institutions can work collaboratively in problem-solving scenarios and in addressing local workforce and education issues.

For example, many observers have noted the need for an integrated curriculum that involves academic as well as vocational elements. Who better to consult about skills needed in the work place than the very businesses that stand to benefit from a more knowledgeable, highly skilled workforce? Moreover, programs such as tech-prep and work-based learning involve apprenticeships or internships that take place in businesses. The following sections provide examples of business involvement in established initiatives in new vocationalism.

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