Sometimes You Have to Take a Step Back in Order to Move Forward, or Not

It wasn’t that long ago that the primary place to get vocational training was your local high school. Some well-degreed, well-meaning, clueless person decided that your path in life was better served with your hands. Rarely did they discuss it with you. Rarely did you think about it.


But here we are, a number of years later, and the concept of vocational education has taken a sudden shift in direction – backwards! And that’s a good thing. But when we say ‘backwards’ we mean decades and decades. Back to around World War II – you know, the second war to end all wars.


At that time, vocational education wasn’t for folks who weren’t going to ‘make it’; rather, it was for most everyone who wanted to work. Furnace cleaning? Check. Truck and Car Repair? Check. Electrician or plumber or some combination of the two? Check. Secretarial programs (I just hate that word!)? There we white glove programs in every mid-and-large-sized city in the country. Even more ‘white collar’ jobs had real world, real time training – earn while you learn! Did you think most people wanted to sell aluminum siding, cars or office supplies? Of course not! If you had an aptitude, they’d find a way to get you the information and training you need…and then keep you around for as long as humanly possible.


The same is true with unions and guilds. They called them apprenticeships and training programs but the net effect is similar.


Here’s a fact – between 1800 and 1880 written mentions of “apprenticeships” were pretty static; between 1880 and 1900 they fell off a cliff. Population didn’t decline. The First World War hadn’t happened yet. What began was a rise in college attendance. As the industrial age grew, so, too, did the concept. But then came the end of World War II and the idea of “learning a trade” erupted. Returning GI’s promised education and a path to something better – plus a mortgage that they had to pay, somehow — and they went to work finding work.


And they did! In giant numbers. Until they didn’t. In surprising numbers that, for some reason, few people saw coming. Computers put an end to learn a trade and get a job orientation. Digitization slowed it even further. Until…the last decade, when people were finally needed to work WITH computers and smart machines. Professional, hands-on training – and re-training – became a think again. A big thing.


Which is where we are today.


So, if you re thinking about going back to school – or starting a whole new field of work and need the tools – you are not alone. Professional and Vocational Education has become a fast-track to employability again. Because, as you know: everything old is new again.

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An active investor and strategist in the business of higher education, Jay is also a visionary developer of real estate. His “Virtual Adjacency” concept predated the rise of smart devices and foretold the interconnectivity we all enjoy today.

Barry Layne is a pioneering digital management and marketing executive. He was founder and global head of Ketchum Communication’s worldwide digital media businesses; COO of ArtistDirect; Executive Vice President of National Lampoon; Senior Vice President of About, Inc.; and Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of

After retiring as president of the University of Indianapolis in 2005, his second post as president of a college, Jerry was temporary president of Lambuth University. He continues to provide strategy consulting services to a number of colleges and universities. He wrote The 75 Biggest Myths about College Admissions (Sourcebooks, 2008) debunking many of the misconceptions students and their families hold about selecting and entering college.

Joe conceived the Company’s strategy and is the principal founder. Previously he was chairman and CEO of Andrew Jackson University (AJU), an accredited for-profit degree granting university. While at AJU he cofounded and spun off ProctorU, now the world’s premier online exam proctoring organization. A longtime entrepreneur, Joe started in the investment industry, acquired his first company in 1974, and followed that acquisition by founding multiple online-related companies. He is a published author (Dow Jones- Irwin) and has been designated Distinguished Lecturer by the Graduate School of Business, Florida Atlantic University.