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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.

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in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Help ex-prisoners get back to work

File under: jobs, public perception, civil rights

3 (1 votes)

From: Christine A., Arlington, MA

In 1997, at the end of Buddhist meditation retreat, I volunteered to write to a prisoner, to become his pen pal to support his meditation practice while he was incarcerated. Two years ago he was released. Since then, he has not been able to find a job. No one will hire him because he is a convicted felon. It doesn't matter that he got an associate degree in business while in prison, that he got a certificate in horticulture, or that he learned to train dogs. No one will hire him because he has a criminal record. If it weren't for the fact that a Lutheran minister is paying his rent and giving him money for basic necessities, he would be on the street.

The United States incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world. Most people go back into the community after serving time. But if they can't find work, how will they survive? They can't. And so, they are condemned, after they paid their debt to society, to a life of poverty -- or they revert to crime. With no opportunity to turn their lives around, what choice do they have? We need reform. First, we need to have jobs waiting for those released from prison. Second, we need to have alternatives to prison sentences for some crimes, such as community service with mentoring, leading to permanent, livable-wage employment. We've tried the stick and it hasn't worked. It's time to try the carrot.


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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

  • 05.05.16

    Should Colleges Teach Men How to Be Men?

    Should colleges have men's studies majors or men's resource centers? Our guest this week tells us that male college students would get better grades if they rejected stereotypes of hyper-masculinity.
  • 04.28.16

    “My Frain is Bried”: Shadowing a Student

    "Welcome to our world." Educators take an entire school day to shadow a student and walk in their shoes. We find out how it went for one teacher.
  • 04.21.16

    High School Job Prep

    Want a job? So does every student ever! Maybe career and technical education classes are the way to go. Shaun Dougherty says you could be more likely to graduate and earn more if you do.
  • 04.14.16

    How Tutoring Helps Students

    Private tutoring is no longer just for the rich kids. Our guest tells us how the individual attention improves student learning and graduation rates.