Career Academies, Job Placement, and Relocation Vouchers

Many educators think career academies go beyond the traditional role of high school education in America. Of course, they are precisely correct. High schools must go beyond offering piecemeal career technical education courses for some kids. We must provide a four-year sequence of career technical education for all appropriate students. In addition, career academies must provide job placement for all high school graduates. In the new book, The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti, it is clear that we also must provide relocation vouchers for some high school graduates to be able to go where the jobs are.

These ideas go beyond today’s public education role and that is my point. It is time for our society to utilize our high schools to prepare our youth for work. The work world now requires youth to have substantial work skills to survive in America. Presently, we neglect our average and low performing students by not providing them with employable skills in order to survive after high school. This neglect is criminal. I have suggested lawsuits against governors, mayors, and school boards for not providing this basic education systematically leaving youth with no way to make a living.

It’s also necessary for high schools to help graduates find jobs wherever they may be. Colleges have job placement services. It is time to recognize that high school students require this service as well. The reality is they need this help even more. This service, however, must be based on placing students with certified job skills. Career academies provide this level of skill with over 900 hours of occupational education. It makes no sense that we help our college grads find jobs, but do not provide our high school youth with the same job placement service.

The new idea of relocation vouchers recognizes an additional burden on young Americans. Many youth grow up far away from substantial jobs. I’m certain some will view this voucher idea as a new form of a giveaway. However, when you compare the $150,000 of funds behind every public college student, a one-time relocation voucher of $5000 is really not a lot of money. This is a significant point for people to understand. The expense of a high school education is already paid for. States and the federal government already provide additional funding for career technical education. Placement service and relocation vouchers are far cheaper than letting kids become involved crime and prison. This proposed career academies, placement service, and relocation vouchers are a lot cheaper than just one year in prison. Remember, 70 percent of the 2.5 million people in prison in America are high school dropouts. Most of the people who go to prison are there for longer than just one year at $40,000 dollars per year. Thus, high school career academy reform is cheap or free when you consider prison costs.

High school career academies, job placement service, and relocation vouchers would be a major part of a new computerized national job placement service. This placement service would be based on certified job skills. Imagine millions of students, who would otherwise be dropouts, finishing high school and going to work. Imagine this over a twenty-year period of time. We would be closing prisons. We would save billions of dollars. Businesses would find workers they need to become more productive. Crime would be way down and businesses would be more productive. We would save billions. What is not to like?

The reality is that high schools will not move away from an exclusively college preparation curriculum until they are forced to change. School administrators are happy doing what they’re doing. No one confronts them with the reality of what happens to their students after they leave high school. Therefore, they do not see any reason to change. They will not take on the additional burden of job placement till they’re forced to do so and it is fully funded. Thus, the change must come from governors and/or the President of the United States. The recasting of the role of high schools in America must come from outside of education. The creation of career academies, job placement, and relocation vouchers makes sense for youth, business, and for American society. The fact that it makes sense doesn’t mean it will happen. It will take courageous leadership to step up and speak for the powerless.

James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on

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Dr. Wilson is the author of Disposable Youth: Eucation or Incarceration? on
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