American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.17.14

    A company short on skilled workers creates its own college-degree program

    At a Toyota plant in Kentucky, young people are learning how to fix robots, earning associate's degrees and graduating with jobs that pay up to $80,000 a year.
  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.

American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.17.14

    A company short on skilled workers creates its own college-degree program

    At a Toyota plant in Kentucky, young people are learning how to fix robots, earning associate's degrees and graduating with jobs that pay up to $80,000 a year.
  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.


Adoption stories


Heather Shirey
Faribault, MN

Birth Country: CN
Decade of adoption: 2000 or later

Naomi arrived in Guangzhou late in the evening, tired and uncomfortable. She was a nine-month old dressed in a tiny little outfit made for a newborn baby. She was put in the arms of her new parents. She didn't cry, and she didn't look back at the women who brought her to Guangzhou. Had they been her caregivers for months? Did she know them well?

A month ago, we woke up in Beijing. We tried to make conversation and think about other things on the long flight. We checked into our hotel room and laughed and cried over the crib in the room. It didn't seem possible. We packed our diaper bag and got on a bus, knowing that we would be returning with a baby in our arms. We celebrated and took pictures as we watched three new families being formed. We wept and worried when we heard three babies, ours included, had not arrived. We waited and waited and wondered and stewed. We bought diapers and formula. We had a dark, seething dinner and feared that something had gone wrong. We watched the news on TV and tried to focus on disaster in the world as a distraction. We passed through the longest six hours in history. We went to another room and our baby was placed in our arms. We recognized her the moment we saw her. It was the most natural moment in the world and we knew we would never let her go.

We carried a quiet baby to our room. She cried a little as we struggled to take off that tiny dress. We felt like idiots for not being able to undress our baby without making her cry. We thought about cutting it off, or perhaps just leaving her in it until the morning in order to spare her the trauma caused by our ineptitude. Finally, we undressed her and redressed her in striped pajamas with a duck on the pocket. Her feet were too long and her toes got scrunched up. She was very quiet. We waited for her to make a sound. We gave her a stuffed bunny, which she rejected. We didn't know yet that she'd have been happier with a terry cloth washcloth. She fell asleep on her baba's chest. It was 10:00. We laid in bed and smiled. We didn't sleep all night and stayed busy checking every few minutes to make sure she was still okay. When she cried at five in the morning, I said it was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard.

Today we've been with Naomi for one month. She says "uh-oh" all day long, sometimes even in the right context. She practices walking and groves to her favorite music, a Swahili children's song. She eats bananas and oatmeal and beans and carrots and yogurt and everything we give her. She has two new teeth and bites my finger all the time to show me. She is shy of strangers, but warms up and reveals herself as an entertainer. She shows us new things she discovers, her eyes alive with excitement. She loves people who wear glasses. She sings baby songs and babbles all of the time. She naps like a cat, awakening at the tiniest sound, afraid to miss out on anything.

A month ago, Naomi woke surrounded by the sounds of China. The subtle tones of the language filled her ears. The people she saw had faces that looked more like hers. Now she is in Minnesota, a land of Scandanavian giants. We speak English almost all of the time with her, reading the occasional book in Czech, Portuguese or Mandarin. There are things she has lost even as she has gained her new family.



Back to Adoption Stories


American RadioWorks |
A student learns welding at a vocational high school in Massachusetts. (Photo: Emily Hanford)

Ready to Work

Vocational education was once a staple of American schooling, preparing some kids for blue-collar futures while others were put on a path to college. Today the new mantra is "college for all." But not everyone wants to go to college, and more than half of jobs don't require a bachelor's degree. Many experts say it's time to bring back career and technical education. This American RadioWorks documentary explores how vocational education is being reimagined.

Recent Posts

  • 09.17.14

    A company short on skilled workers creates its own college-degree program

    At a Toyota plant in Kentucky, young people are learning how to fix robots, earning associate's degrees and graduating with jobs that pay up to $80,000 a year.
  • 09.11.14

    A 21st-century vocational high school

    For years, vocational education was seen as a lesser form of schooling, tracking some kids into programs that ended up limiting their future opportunities. Today, in the nation's best vocational programs, things are different.
  • 09.10.14

    Career academies: A new twist on vocational ed

    Across the country, thousands of high schools are transforming into career academies. The idea is that students will be more engaged if they see how academics are connected to the world of work. And they’ll be more likely to get the postsecondary schooling they need to support themselves in today’s economy.
  • 09.09.14

    The troubled history of vocational education

    Vocational education was once used to track low-income students off to work while wealthier kids went to college. But advocates for today's career and technical education say things have changed, and graduates of vocational programs may have the advantage over graduates of traditional high schools.