Valuing more than degreesA growing number of students with job skills are opting for college instead of the workplace, largely because of the way companies and our society prize education over skill.
This year, the government has created various incentives to ensure that vocational high school students have jobs when they graduate.
This is a good start.
It will allocate 20 billion won to approximately 200 vocational high schools nationwide. Vocational school students who find employment upon graduation will be allowed to defer military service for up to four years. The government will also lift regulations to allow companies to establish vocational training institutes for their employees.
In addition, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will award funds to the top 24 schools with the highest number of graduates who find employment. But these measures will be of no use if students would rather be studying for their college exams.
Vocational schools exist to educate and train specialists needed in various industrial fields. However, they are increasingly losing the ability to carry out that mission as more students decide to go to college rather than seek jobs.
In 2002, about half of the graduates of vocational schools - 49.8 percent - went to college while the other 45.1 percent found jobs. The ratio seesawed between 18.9 percent and 72.9 percent last year, with the majority opting to go to college.
The government’s focus on helping students to get high-paying jobs after they graduate is the right policy for restoring the role of vocational schools.
Companies must also get into the act. Companies that help their employees obtain university education will be more likely to draw vocational school graduates. Currently, only Samsung Heavy Industries and Samsung Electronics have undergraduate courses for employees.
Companies can also seek partnerships with universities to offer online or weekend courses for their employees so that workers with high school diplomas can pursue higher education while working.
Meanwhile, the government is working on programs that would help companies establish relationships with universities and is setting policy that will make it easier for companies to accept employees from their affiliates.
These days, vocational school students are more likely to go to college rather than into the workplace.
Change is possible, but only if companies place greater importance on job skills and less on academic degrees.