In remarks touting vocational schools, Trump confuses them with community colleges

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“When I was growing up we had vocational schools,” Trump said during a speech at a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia, remembering a classmate who had a “different type of talent “and was not the” greatest student “but was skilled in auto repair.

“You learn mechanics, you learn masonry and carpentry. We don’t have those things anymore,” Trump said. “I think vocation is a much better word in many cases than community college. A lot of people don’t know what community college means or stands for.”

Julie Ajinkya, vice president of applied research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, told CNN in an interview that the comments made no sense because vocational schools and community colleges are types of institutions. different with different goals.

“We do not use this language interchangeably,” Ajinkya said. “A vocational school prepares an individual for a career in a very specific industry by preparing them with the technical skills required for a very specific job.”

Community colleges, she said, are more flexible and designed to “meet the more non-traditional needs of students” and allow them to explore more options.

Jeff Strohl, research director at Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, said the president “speaks of a world that no longer exists,” where the economy was mostly made up of workers who could earn sustainable wages without a university degree.

“This job doesn’t exist to the same degree it used to be,” Strohl told CNN.

Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute at Arizona State University, called increasing funding for vocational education one of the few issues in Washington that is not partisan.

“The president is absolutely right – we need to invest more money in this, both at the high school and community college level,” Symonds said.

Trump made limited reference to education during his first State of the Union address on Tuesday evening, winking slightly at vocational education. Leaders from both sides discussed the priority given to vocational education, a change from the previous era of educational reform, which emphasized universal university as a goal.

“We can move our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence on independence and poverty to prosperity,” Trump said. “Let’s invest in workforce development and vocational training. Let us open large vocational schools so that our future workers can learn a trade and realize their full potential.

CNN's Reality Check Team Examines Trump's State of the Union

Trump has not developed or made specific proposals on how to proceed.

In a statement following the State of the Union address, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said “America must do better to prepare our students for success in the 21st century economy “.

“I join the President in calling on Congress to act in the best interests of students and to expand access to more educational pathways,” she said.

Funding, however, has been a point of contention between the two parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hit back on Twitter:

“Building new vocational schools? With what? Your FY18 * budget * cuts * these programs and vocational training for technicians,” the California Democrat wrote.

Lauren Holt of CNN contributed to this report.


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