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[Report to the Congress by the Comptroller General of the United States, Oct. 18, 1972] TRAINING AMERICA'S LABOR FORCE: POTENTIAL, PROGRESS, AND PROBLEMS OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE
COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES,
To the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. This is our report entitled "Training America's Labor Force: Potential, Progress, and Problems of Vocational Education." The program is administered by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Our review was made pursuant to the Budget and Accounting Act, 1921 (31 U.S.C. 53), and the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950 (31 U.S.C. 67). Copies of this report are being sent to the Director, Office of Management and Budget, and to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
ELMER B. STAATS, Comptroller General of the United States.
Training America's Labor Force: Potential, Progress, and Problems [Department of Health, Education, and Welfare B-164031(1)]
COMPTROLLER GENERAL'S REPORT TO THE CONGRESS, DIGEST
WHY THE REVIEW WAS MADE
The General Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed Federal vocational education programs in California, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to find out whether legislative objectives were being achieved and to identify major problems. These four States received $104 million, or 22 percent of the total Federal assistance for vocational education, in fiscal year 1972.
GAO's review concentrated on high school vocational education, because the States' programs emphasized this level of education. Post-secondary vocational training in 2-year community colleges is also important, but, of the four States. only California had extensive community college programs at the time of GAO's review.
The Federal Government started its involvement in vocational education in 1917 and broadened its role with the passage of the Vocational Education Act of 1963.
The objective of the act, as amended in 1968, is to provide all persons who need vocational education with access to vocational training which is: "*** realistic in the light of actual or anticipated opportunities for gainful employment, and which is suited to their needs, interests, and abilities." Particular emphasis is placed on meeting the needs of the disadvantaged. Since 1963, Federal expenditures for vocational education increased from $57 million in fiscal year 1963 to $507 million in fiscal year 1972, while State and local expenditures rose from $254 million in fiscal year 1963 to $1,951 million in fiscal year 1971.
Training America's labor force may take many forms, but perhaps none is more important—at least in potential-than vocational education. It can be used to teach skills and constructive work attitudes to all ages of the population-from youths in early years of schooling to adults who have developed poor work habits or who have discovered that yesterday's job skills are obsolete in today's world.
FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS
The four States have set ambitious goals for vocational education and have done considerable planning toward achieving these goals. Attaining these goals will require time; talent; hard work; cooperation; and, according to State officials, money-lots of money. Some progress has been achieved; the percentage of the Nation's secondary students enrolled in vocational education has risen from 24 percent in fiscal year 1965 to 38 percent in fiscal year 1971. Vocational education not provided to all who need it
However, the objective of the legislation had not been achieved nationwide or in any of the four States. According to Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) data, 37 percent of the Nation's high school students presumed to need vocational education-primarily those not going on to 4-year colleges—were not receiving it. In the four States, even greater proportions →→→ 44 to 75 percent-of the high school students needing it were not receiving it. Vocational educators say that the causes of this situation are
Insufficient financial support at all levels of government and
An unfavorable image of, and a resulting aversion to, vocational education.
GAO's review showed indications of both of these problems but also showed that the image problem was not always present. In some locations, vocational programs are extremely successful in gaining community acceptance, attracting students, and resulting in jobs for graduates. No direct research or systematic information gathering has been performed on the exact nature or extent of the image problem. This situation demonstrates a need for HEW to undertake research into the exact nature and extent of vocational education's funding and image problems. (See p. 12.)
Funds not properly used for the disadvantaged
In the four States, funds intended by the act to support special programs or services for disadvantaged persons unable to succeed in the regular vocational education program were often not used for this purpose. Special assistance includes tutors, remedial education, and modified or special programs.
Some State and local education officials did not fully understand the intended use of funds for disadvantaged persons and therefore used these funds for regular vocational programs.
As a result of discussions with GAO, HEW issued clarifying guidelines and planned to hold regional conferences to provide further clarification.
These actions should provide the needed clarification, but to be effective the guidelines will have to be enforced through increased HEW and State program monitoring. (See p. 22.)
Better management information needed
HEW, the four States, and independent evaluators believe that the current management information systems of HEW and the States did not provide sufficient data to adequately evaluate the results of programs, as required by the act. Data furnished inaccurate or incomplete.
At the time of GAO's review, two of the States had made some progress in improving their management information systems. There is a need for HEW to coordinate with State and local education agencies in defining the informa tion needed for an adequate management information system and to assist these agencies in establishing such systems. (See p. 32.)
RECOMMENDATIONS OR SUGGESTIONS
The Secretary of HEW should:
Initiate research into the exact nature and extent of vocational education's financial and image problems, with a view toward determining what actions are necessary to more fully achieve the objective of the act. (See p. 19.)
Instruct HEW's regional offices to monitor more closely the use of funds for educationally disadvantaged persons to insure that these funds are being used as intended by the act in compliance with HEW guidelines. (See p. 30.)
Require the States to describe procedures they intend to employ so that funds for the disadvantaged are used properly. (See p. 30.)
Coordinate the efforts of HEW and the States in defining the information needed to adequately evaluate program results and should assist the States in the design and the implementation of management information systems. (See p. 37.)
Take action so that HEW and the States verify the accuracy and completeness of reported information. (See p. 37.)
AGENCY ACTIONS AND UNRESOLVED ISSUES
HEW concurred with GAO's recommendations. Actions have been taken or promised to conduct the required research, to properly control the use of disadvantaged funds, and to improve the management information systems. The actions should result in needed program improvements if carried out nationwide. State officials also generally concurred with GAO's recommendations, but they and HEW said that GAO should have included more information on the accomplishments and potential of vocational education. Although GAO found some programs which appeared to be operating effectively, the incomplete and inaccurate management information prevented unqualified conclusions on overall program effectiveness.
MATTERS FOR CONSIDERATION BY THE CONGRESS
Although progress has been made, substantial additional efforts will be needed by both the States and the Federal Government to fully achieve the objectives of the Vocational Education Act of 1963.
"New methods, materials, and machines are shaping a new world in which knowledge and skill are paramount. Much more than mere literacy and physical vigor is required of most people working with the new processes of an advancing technological society." Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, June 1969.1
In this age of rapid technological change, America's labor force is faced with the necessity of training and retraining to keep pace with an ever-changing demand for job skills. Training may take many forms, but perhaps none is more important-at least in potential-than vocational education. It can be used to teach skills and good work attitudes to all age groups of the population-from youths in early years of schooling to adults who have developed poor work habits or who have discovered that yesterday's job skills are obsolete in today's world. Recognizing the value of such training, the Nation has invested billions of dollars--Federal, State, and local-in vocational education programs.
FEDERAL PARTICIPATION IN VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
The Federal Government has long recognized the importance of vocational education in training America's labor force. Since 1917, with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act (20 U.S.C. 11), the Government has helped prepare persons for the labor market by providing funds to the States for vocational training. The George-Barden Act, which was effective from 1946 to 1968, provided additional Federal support to the States, authorizing funds for administration, Vocational guidance, and training.
To help cope with the Nation's employment problems, the Congress passed the Vocational Education Act of 1963 (20 U.S.C. 1241). The act shifted program emphasis from training in limited occupational cateories-agricultural, home economics, trade, and industrial-to training or retraining in a broad range of occupational skills for major groups of people-high school students (secondary); high school graduates (post-secondary); older persons; and persons with academic, socioeconomic, or other handicaps.
As amended in 1968, the act authorized appropriations for regular vocational programs, programs for students with special needs (disadvantaged and handicapped), exemplary programs and projects, consumer and homemaking
1 Source: HEW booklet that summarizes the Vocational Education Amendments of 1968, p. 1.
1 Amount requested
1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 19731 FISCAL YEARS
education, cooperative (industry school) programs, work-study programs, research and training, curriculum development, and personnel training. The amendment also required the establishment of national and State advisory Councils to evaluate these vocational education programs and to recommend changes as warranted.
Following enactment of the Vocational Education Act of 1963, expenditures for vocational education by all levels of government-Federal, State, and local -increased dramatically. Federal expenditures increased from $57 million In fiscal year 1963 to $447 million in fiscal year 1971, while State and local expenditures rose from $254 million in fiscal year 1963 to $1,951 million in fiscal
year 1971. The increase in Federal expenditures is illustrated in the following chart.
ADMINISTRATION OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION PROGRAMS
The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW)-the Federal agency responsible for vocational education programs-administers the prgrams through its Office of Education which has assigned the task to its Bureau of Adult Vocational and Technical Education. Field activities are administered by the Bureau's regional directors stationed in HEW's 10 regional offices. State departments of education are responsible for administering the programs at the State level.
States desiring to receive Federal funds for any fiscal year must submit a State plan to the regional adult, vocational, and technical education director for approval. The plan must meet the requirements of the act and of HEW's implementing guidelines. Funds for permanent programs are allotted annually to the States on the basis of the number of persons of various age groups and the States' per capita income. Funds are also available for certain programs authorized for only a limited period. These funds are allotted solely on the basis of the States' population in specific age groups.
CHAPTER 2-VOCATIONAL EDECATION NOT REACHING ALL WHO NEED IT
The objective of the Vocational Education Act-that all persons needing Vocational education receive it-is far from being fully achieved at the high school level. In some high schools, students seem not to want vocational education even though it is available and facilities are underutilized. In other locations it is not even available.
The apparent inability of vocational education programs to attract the interest of students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers and to thereby become attractive training programs for those who could benefit from them is not a universal situation. Some high school vocational education programs are extremely successful in gaining community acceptance, attracting students, and resulting in jobs for graduates. The reasons for the wide variation among schools and locations are not clear, and not much research into the causes has been undertaken.
GOAL VERSUS ACHIEVEMENT-A WIDE DISPARITY
The goal of the Vocational Education Act, as stated in the 1968 amendments, is:
**** that persons of all ages in all communities of the States-those in high school, those who have completed or discontinued their formal education and are preparing to enter the labor market, those who have already entered the labor market but need to upgrade their skills or learn new ones, those with special educational handicaps, and those in post-secondary schools—will have ready access to vocational training or retraining * * *."
The legislative history of the 1963 act and of the 1968 amendments indicates that the Congress intended that all persons who need vocational education should receive it and that anyone not completing a 4-year college program leading to a baccalaureate degree was presumed to need it.
The four States we reviewed had plans to provide vocational education to the majority of secondary students not going on to 4-year colleges. But, as shown below, only a small proportion of these students were receiving it in 1971, according to estimates by State officials and consultants.
1 Primarily students not going to 4-year colleges. Students not receiving vocational education in high school can receive it under postsecondary training programs such as those offered in a 2-year community college.