Studio Schools Remix Vocational Education for a New Generation

Studio Schools show how old-school auto shop classes are being replaced with college-and-career preparation.

As the emerging 21st-century economy demands a better-prepared workforce, vocational education is making a comeback. But old-school industry training programs our parents remember are being replaced with schoolwide efforts that directly partner with local businesses to ensure students learn real life skills. One such model, the Studio School, has spread to 10 U.K. high schools over the past two years, turning bored students accustomed to earning D's and F's into high achievers.

Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation—which helped create the Studio School—gave a quick summary of their model in a recent TED Talk. A full 80 percent of instruction, he said, takes place outside of the classroom. Students work on commission for businesses, NGOs and other organizations, allowing them to learn while completing on-the-job, practical projects. The schools, which enroll a maximum 400 students each, also assign each student a personal coach to help ensure they're successful.

The schools are public but independently run, operate at no extra cost to local governments, and are open to all students. While some may bristle at the idea of high schoolers being put to work, there could be some real lessons to learn from any model that results in fewer bored students dropping out of school.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user otisarchives2