Vocational schools to get more fundsThe government is expanding vocational training programs for high school students as Korea’s job market continues to experience slow growth. The measure is meant to help meet higher demand for vocational education as fewer students are interested in pursuing studies at traditional four-year universities.
About 100 billion won ($87 million) will be allocated this year to help local high schools open more vocational training programs, the government said Wednesday. The budget is expected to expand the number of students taking vocational courses by 133.3 percent to 14,000 this year.
“The government came up with measures to have more high school students take vocational courses as the demand for vocational schools exceeds supply in Korea,” said Chung Kyung-hoon, a director at the Ministry of Employment and Labor. “This will help many high school graduates find jobs right after they get out of school and solve some of the issues related to high youth unemployment at the same time.”
The number of high school graduates that didn’t go on to college rose to 528,000 last year from 416,000 in 2013, the government said.
It added that while college graduates took an average eight months after graduation to find their first jobs, it took 17 months for high school graduates last year.
There is also a wide wage gap between high school and college graduates. The government said high school graduates earn 72.4 percent of what college degree holders earn.
The ministry said it will diversify vocational education programs offered at high schools by cooperating with private educational institutions. The government plans to have such private institutions compete with each other by reporting their performance to the public in hopes of improving the services.
“We will also raise the number of vocational schools in the country,” Chung said.
The government hopes to raise the portion of high school students attending vocational schools to 29 percent by 2022 from the current 19 percent. “There is demand for learning hair design, nursing and make-up skills at high schools,” Chung said. “We will work on finding new sectors that are likely to grow from now on.”
The ministry added that it will provide more career counseling services for high school students and give financial benefits to those who find jobs through government-run job search services.
High school graduates who find jobs through the government training programs will receive 12 million won if they stay at their jobs for two years.
Vocational schools are seeing more demand, but the government admits the number of spots available at schools falls short of that demand. As of last year, the number of middle school graduates who were willing to attend vocational schools was 142,000, but only 105,000 were accepted.
One of the government’s other goals is to lower the number of people attending college who do not want to be there.
According to the government, 69.8 percent of high school graduates went to college last year, far higher than the OECD average of 41 percent, though the percentage is falling in recent years.
The same data showed that the number of Koreans attending vocational schools accounted for 18.8 percent of all high school students, and that, too, has been continuously declining since 1995. The rate is now far lower than the OECD average of 47 percent.
The rate of other high school graduates that are economically active was 74.4 percent as of last year, lower than the 81.6 percent of college graduates and 77.2 percent of vocational school graduates.
BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [firstname.lastname@example.org]