The time to expand vocational ed is now

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand vocational education in schools is a good one. It will benefit hundreds of thousands of young students in the future.

One might say Kasich’s proposal is an idea that’s time has come – and gone – several times. Many people can remember periods during which high schools were full of programs for aspiring nurses, welders, farmers, etc. – followed by years during which vocational departments were downplayed.

That is a shame. Vocational education – handled intelligently – ought to be an integral part of the public school system. Some students just are not cut out for college. Others simply like some jobs that do not require higher education. And some recognize that certain professions they can train for in high school pay more than many so-called “white collar” jobs.

Kasich revealed this week his vocational education plan will be part of his State of the State speech, to be delivered Monday. Presumably, more details will be provided then.

But on Wednesday, the governor revealed he wants to expand vocational education to middle schools. Incredibly narrow-minded as it may seem, official state Department of Education policy had been to limit vocational education to students in grades 9-12.

But at the middle school level, programs intended to expose youngsters to various occupations, perhaps giving them some hands-on experience, can be very valuable. They set the stage for high school-level vocational courses.

Getting that right can be a challenge, especially with technology changing rapidly. But the rewards, which can include convincing some students that dropping out of school is not a good idea, can be enormous.

Kasich is right to think of expanding vocational education. This time, let’s hope the emphasis doesn’t go away after a few years.