Technical schools’ reputations, and enrollments, are changing

technical-schoolIn one of the newest and fastest-growing secondary schools in Chester County, teacher Katie Smith was demonstrating proper technique to 16-year-old Courtney Draper and 18-year-old Scott Persing–with a big assist from Dwight.

Dwight is a silken-haired shih tzu. Persing was anxiously shaving fur from the squirmy toy-breed canine at the Brandywine campus of the Technical College High School, run by the Chester County Intermediate Unit, taking another step toward a veterinary career.

Formerly branded “vo-tech” and disdained by baby boomers and their children who saw them as dumping grounds for college-track washouts, programs such as this–redubbed “career and technical education,” or CTE–can barely expand quickly enough to meet the demand from a new generation of students. They have watched costs skyrocket and job prospects dwindle for university graduates, even as well-paying skilled jobs in manufacturing, auto repair, and medical centers that don’t require college degrees go begging.

(Next page: The growth of technical schools)