Vocational school enrollment increases


Students at Seoul Urban Science Technical High School practice welding. Seoul Urban Science is one of the only Meister schools in Korea that focuses on overseas construction and factory sectors. [KIM SANG-SEON]

As the job market remains sluggish in recent years, more students are choosing to study at vocational high schools, according to government data. Many students believe their future is brighter than if they attend traditional schools that focus on college preparation.

Not only are there more demands for vocational schools, but the employment rate of graduates from these schools is also improving.

The employment rate of vocational school graduates rose for the seventh consecutive year, the education ministry said, rising from 16.7 percent in 2009 to 47.2 percent last year. The government’s target rate by 2022 is 65%.

“There seem to be more Korean students who believe college degrees are not necessary for their careers,” said Choi Won-seok, director of the Ministry of Education. “Previously, vocational schools were mainly divided into two sectors – trade schools and technology schools – but there are more types of high schools that teach various subjects such as baking, cooking and robotics.”

In 2009, the government introduced a new type of public school called Meister High School, which teaches specific technologies related to the 10 fastest emerging sectors, including semiconductors and robots. The schools are funded by the government and their number has increased from 20 in 2009 to 48 in 2016.

Vocational schools are in greater demand, but the government has admitted that the number of students they are available to educate is below demand. The employment rate for Meister School graduates has remained above 90% since 2013.

About 20% of those who have found a job work in large companies and public institutions. The government plans to announce ways for more public institutions and large companies to hire more high school graduates, including those from vocational schools, while offering more vocational training programs.

“I think the demand for Meister schools and vocational schools is increasing because there are more students who think they won’t find jobs even after graduating from college,” said Seo Jae-hak, deputy principal of Gwangju Management High, a The School Master. “The problem is even greater for Korean students residing in rural areas. I think that’s the reason why more students are applying to vocational schools.

The unemployment rate for Koreans aged 15 to 29 hit a record high of 9.8 percent last year, according to Statistics Korea. There are 435,000 people in this age group unemployed.


Gwangju Management Secondary School started accepting students for the first time this year, and 278 students applied for 80 places.

“Students will be paid by the government for tuition, which has the effect of having more students with great potential to apply to our school. The school’s goal is for students to get jobs right after graduating from our school,” Seo added.

Seoul Urban Science Technical High School also started offering Meister teaching programs to incoming students last year. The school focuses on the overseas construction and factory sectors.

“Since I entered middle school, I thought about studying at Meister School which teaches construction and related technologies instead of going to college,” said Hong Eun-kee, a freshman. year at Seoul Urban Science Technical High School. “My parents didn’t like the idea, but they were finally convinced after I explained to them my future plans and the school’s educational programs.”

Lee Jo-bok, principal of the school, said his students will become the construction masters who will represent Korea overseas in the future.

“Our graduates will become the leading construction workers representing Korea overseas,” Lee said. “Social views that believe college education is necessary would be disadvantageous factors for our students. But my students will do better [than people who went to colleges] when it comes to adapting in the fields since they are trained to be good at it.

The youth unemployment problem is worse for those with a four-year university degree. The number of job seekers with a four-year university degree rose 13.7 percent year-on-year, from 278,000 in 2015 to 316,000 last year, the statistics agency said.

One of the reasons why young Koreans who graduate from college find it difficult to find jobs is that there is a high number of people in general who attend universities compared to other countries.

According to the government, 69.8 percent of Korean high school graduates have gone on to college since last year. Even though the number of applicants for a university degree has decreased in the country, the figure is still higher than the OECD average of 41%.

“Korean colleges have failed to educate students to become the most talented people, while only having them learn average skills throughout their courses,” said Choi Kyung-soo, senior researcher. at the Korea Development Institute. “We need to reduce the number of high school students who plan to attend colleges while making colleges more competitive in order to educate students and make them more talented to be in the job market.”

The government is seeking to increase the number of vocational high schools.

“Demand for vocational schools exceeds supply in Korea,” said Nam Duk-hyun, director at the Ministry of Employment and Labor. “It seems that more and more students think that going to university will not automatically get them a job, so they are looking to attend vocational schools from an early age to learn how to prepare for the job market in the future. instead of going to college.”

With no vocational education programs, more Korean high school graduates who do not plan to go to college are still preparing for the college entrance exam.


Along the same lines, an increasing number of high school graduates who fail college entrance exams are choosing to study for the civil service exams instead of preparing for another year of college admissions. the university.

“More than 3 out of 10 students who come to experience our educational program are high school students,” said Park Jung-hyeok, a teacher at G-gosi, one of Seoul’s largest private educational institutions that prepares students for college. civil entry. exam. “The number of high school graduates coming to our facility for counseling has increased significantly from the previous year.”

“I didn’t do well in my college entrance exam and am currently studying for the civil service exam instead,” said a 19-year-old by the name of Kim. “Even if I studied one more year to get into university, I would still have a hard time finding a job. This is why I chose to study for the civil service competition as soon as possible.

More and more high school graduates started taking the civil service exam instead of studying one more year to enter colleges as the government relaxed the test requirements in 2013. Prior to 2013, the people applying for the level nine exam, or the lowest entrance exam for civil servants, had to take five compulsory subjects, including Korean, English, Korean history, administration history and the administrative law.

But the government made only three subjects – Korean, English and Korean history – compulsory while allowing candidates to choose two out of five subjects, including sociology, science and mathematics, as additional options.

The pass rate of Koreans under the age of 19 on the level 9 civil service exam rose from 0.03% in 2011 to 1% in 2014.

The tendency of young students to find university useless is not limited to Korea, as the number of jobs has declined for various reasons, including the automation of factories and offices.

According to an article in the recent edition of The Economist magazine, the share of the American workforce employed in routine office jobs fell from 25.5% in 1996 to 21% in 2015. And only about 16% of Americans believe that a four-year college degree prepares students well for a good job.

The Korean government does not have exact data on whether the automation of factories and offices has contributed to reducing the number of jobs available in the country.

One of the sectors that create stable working conditions and good social benefits is the manufacturing sector in Korea, which tends to be very popular with young Koreans. However, the number of people working in manufacturing fell from 4.49 million in 2015 to 4.48 million last year. It was the first time that the number of workers in the manufacturing sector had fallen since 2009, when the country was hit by the global financial crisis.

“The number of workers in the manufacturing sector has fallen due to ongoing enterprise restructuring in some sectors, including shipbuilding,” said Bin Hyun-joon, director of Statistics Korea. “The decline in the number of jobs available in the manufacturing sector is one of the main causes of the rise in the youth unemployment rate.”

Even though the manufacturing sector has seen the number of workers decline compared to the past, other sectors, including retail, restaurants and accommodation and construction companies, have hired more people compared to the past. last year. However, those companies that have seen the increase in the number of workers tend to offer more contract or part-time positions.

BY KIM YOUNG-NAM [[email protected]]


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