Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Role of Vocational Schools

The New York Times has an interesting overview of Sinclair Community College and its retraining efforts resulting from a devastated automotive industry. This article provides an interesting view regarding the role of vocational and/or training schools.

It seems that discussions about higher education in the United States have always included the debate contrasting academic missions of enhancing student intellectual capacity and preparing students for their future careers. Advocates of student intellectualism have emphasized that students should learn to create and/or appreciate ideas regardless of their practicality, whereas advocates of student careerism have emphasized that students should learn career relevant knowledge and skills. Given the increasing loss of the U.S. manufacturing production capacity, are some vocational schools training people into future economic dislocation?    

Karabell (1998) argued that the typical American undergraduate is a first generation college student who is often not ready to meet intellectual pursuits, and tends to prefer vocationally oriented coursework. Colleges tend to neglect such student’s educational needs. One problem is that academia has largely maintained their emphasis on scholarly research, and has led American colleges to de-emphasize undergraduate education in general, and vocational education in particular. As a result, non traditional students tend to graduate college without a substantial level of academic or high level vocational preparation. Karabell thus proclaimed that the majority of American colleges should emphasize undergraduate teaching, and focus on enhancing students level of career development.

Hispanics have had a long history and tradition of participation in vocational education; however, the current social and economic environment requires a long-term examination of vocational training as an educational avenue, particularly in manufacturing. Hispanics and other minorities need to be directed to pursue educational endeavors that will provide long-term productivity.

Source:  Karabell, Z. (1998). The Struggle to Define American Higher Education. New York: Basic Books.

Sign of the Times

Ever so often, I find it useful to review basic stats on where Hispanics are in relation to their presence in organizations and the workforce. I tend to review different sources (census data, PEW Hispanic Research, journals, etc.). Research organizations are also very helpful. This information is provided by Evangelina Holvino, a writer and Faculty member at the Simmon’s College School of Management Center for Gender in Organizations. She provides the following information and perspective:

Latinos comprise approximately 10.8 percent of the U.S. civilian workforce.

One of 20 small U.S. businesses is Latino-owned, generating $300 billion in annual sales.

There are more than 16.5 million Latinos on line, 55 percent of the Latino population in the U.S., and more than two-thirds of them use the Internet to make final brand decisions.

 The emphasis on diversity management in many corporations has brought access to information, activities and resources that were previously unavailable. For example:

 in many organizations employee resource groups provide opportunities for Latinos to network and support each other;

 dissemination of company specific information on the hiring, employment, leadership and Board participation of Latinos makes it possible to track progress in the representation of Latinos at various levels;

 targeted initiatives, such as mentoring and leadership programs for Latinos, offer unique developmental opportunities;

 the celebration of Hispanic month, Latino food and fairs helps increase the recognition of the Latino presence, and;

 diversity awards and “best practices” enhance and reward organizational efforts for those organizations deemed “Best for Latinos.”

Holvino notes these advances do not mean that everything is going great for Hispanics in organizations. Given the business case for Hispanic diversity in organizations, this lack of progress not only impacts negatively on Hispanic’s ability to join, contribute, stay and progress in these organizations, it also severely limits the corporations’ ability to reach Hispanic markets and attract, retain and benefit from Hispanic workers and their talents.

Source: Latinos y Latinas in the Workplace: How Much Progress Have We Made? Diversity Factor (Online), 16(1), 11-19

Housing for Gen-1 College Students

The University of Cincinnati has opened a Gen-1 Theme House for first generation incoming students. The Gen-1 Theme house is designed to be “an anchor as the students learn to navigate the university and to be their own advocates.” Gen-1 not only provides support and direction for first generation college goers, it also provides an opportunity to increase graduation rates among first time college students. If Gen-1 house can increase the graduation rate for first generation college entrants, chances are good the idea will spread to other institutions around the country.

The New York Times has a nice overview of the innovative approach plus all the details related to policies and objectives.


The approach provides new opportunities for first generation Hispanic college students. More than two out of five Hispanic freshmen at four-year colleges are the first in their family to attend college (Schmidt, 2003). Hispanic first-generation students are likely to enter college with less academic preparation, and to have limited access to information about the college experience, either firsthand or from relatives (Thayer, 2000). Being exposed to the environment advocated by the Gen-1 idea could assist the retention rates of  Hispanics and other minorities.

Sources: 

Schmidt, Peter. 2003. Academe’s Hispanic Future: The nation’s largest minority group faces big obstacles in higher education, and colleges struggle to find the right ways to help. The Chronicle of Higher Education, v. 50, Issue 14 (28 November): A8. http://chronicle.com

 Thayer, Paul B. 2000. Retention of Students from First Generation and Low Income Backgrounds (ERIC ED446633). Opportunity Outlook (May), 2-8.

Hispanics and STEM Careers

Here are two (here and here) inspiring articles regarding  Hispanics in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics careers. Collectively known as STEM careers, they are a significant issue in the study of Hispanic student retention and persistence.  Historically, Hispanics and other minorities have been disproportionately under-represented in STEM disciplines. As of 2000, the ratio of STEM degrees earned by Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans was only 2.5 per 100 24-year olds (National Science Board, 2004).  These realities present a landscape where academic and career opportunities are unevenly distributed.

Some have suggested that minority students simply are not interested in pursuing degrees in these fields. However, a meta-analysis of 16 research studies representing over 19,000 individuals found no statistical differences in aspirations or interests by racial group. Interestingly, there were statistically significant differences by race in perceived barriers and perceived opportunities. Minorities reported more perceived career barriers and anticipated fewer career opportunities in contrast to white individuals. These findings suggest that most people have the same aspirations but differ in their expectations for realizing their aspirations (Fouad & Byars-Winston, 2005).

Although progress is slow in changing this trend, there are still examples of committed and talented Hispanics achieving professional success in pursuit of these careers.