But is this true? Do things like grit and initiative set apart vocational students? Aren't those also traits that many a successful college bound student exhibits as well? I tend to be one who hates blanket statements without evidence, and I don't think there is much difference, in terms of these two particular qualities, between college and vocational students. I think such qualities are found in both groups.
So I asked myself the question, what ARE qualities one might find more often in vocational students? What might stand out as unique to that particular group that led them down the path of voc-ed training? I really pondered this, and came up with the following list:
1) Lack of Disdain for Physical Labor - I think today's generation has been sold a bill of goods that they have bought, hook, line and sinker, about avoiding real labor. How many times have you heard someone say to a child, "You don't want to have to work that hard to make a living!". Where would we be without our men and woman who install drywall, work construction, dig for utility lines, and much more? Yet we continue to discourage young people from "hard work", with the irony being then we complain about how kids today won't work hard! Can't win on this one.
2) Sense of Humility - While this may not always be the case, many students who head towards blue collar work have been less successful academically, and have felt the sting of failure. While no one wants this to create a sense of low self-esteem, it can lead to a greater sense of humility as they have often struggled and struggled, perhaps been in the middle of the pack or even at the back of the pack throughout their school years.
3) Experienced - Kids who head into trades and tech careers are often drawn there because they have worked part-time jobs through high school, assisted a parent on their job, helped build things outside of school hours. These young people often enter their post-high school training having really worked before, where academically oriented kids often have to focus so much on their school work and resume building for college applications that they can have little time for "outside" things like part-time jobs or true career exploration.
4) Poorer Literacy Skills - Literacy is crucial, and so often kids don't receive the interventions they need to gain those critical reading and writing skills. Sadly, trade and technical bound students were often the ones that got left behind. No one likes to admit this, but it is true for some students.
5) They are Bright and Engaged Learners! - Literacy is only one measurement of intelligence, and certainly not the best. Voc-Ed students are often hands on Do'ers, they light up with excitement because they don't want to just be lectured at, they want to dig in and really figure things out. They are often incredibly intelligent in areas of spacial relationships, logic, and much more as they put their terrific brains to use to fix complex mechanical problems, or repair systems.
6) Visualizers - Can you picture the layout of things in your head? Can you rebuild something from memory? Many of us can't, but many trades oriented folks can. Vocational training can capitalize on gifts not often utilized in the standard school setting. Kids with certain skill sets are glossed over in favor of strong "book learners".
These were a few of the things I think sets Vocational Students apart from college bound students. I'd really love to hear your thoughts and see what else we can come up with!