More than 1,350 vocational educators and administrators from the state's colleges, vocational centers and high schools will wrap up their annual vocational conference Wednesday following three days of discussion and workshops on the future of vocational education in Utah.
The theme of this year's conference, held at Utah Valley Community College, has been "Vocational Education . . . The Threshold for America's Future."James Moss, state superintendent of public instruction, and Joe Luke, state director of vocational education, said the conference was designed to help educators "understand the strategies for bridging vocational and academic skills, increase our knowledge of business and industry expectations, become acquainted with the latest curriculum and state-of-the-art equipment and recognize ways to make our vocational education system more productive and responsive to the needs of our public."
According to conference speaker Bruce T. Griffin, Utah State Office of Education associate superintendent, one of the best ways to improve vocational education's outlook is to begin on the high school level.
"I am recommending that local superintendents and local boards of education re-examine their policies so that student options are not compromised," Griffin said of student educational choices.
"When local districts use research standards as the foundation program for all students, the action may create situations where, rather than broadening student options, it may in fact be limiting them," he said. "Students in this situation may be destined to a life of unemployment or jobs that only pay minimum wage."
Griffin said policy makers and administrators must re-examine what is being required in Utah's secondary schools and must develop precise course sequences in each of the vocational areas so counselors have necessary information to help students develop their education plans.
Griffin suggested that the State Board for Vocational Education direct its vocational staff to develop course sequences for all secondary vocational training areas to improve counseling and student course selection.
Most students can benefit from an extensive vocational program, he said.
"A major public relations effort should be initiated to make the public more aware of the excellent career options available to students in vocational education," Griffin added.
He said the public should be aware that "vocational options are the best choice for most students and will not close the door to college options."