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Trend 29 January Jan 2020 1220 29 January 2020

High schools, how to choose the best one?

High schools, technical and vocational schools How to find the right balance between the job market and kid’s attitudes. The experts’ advice

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There is time until January 31st, on the MIUR site, to enroll in high school. The choice will involve a million and a half students. The move from middle school to high school is not an easy decision. These are, in fact, the basis for the moment kids will enter the world of employment. If we look at data from the Ministry of Education, we’ll see that last year 55.3% of kids (out of 1.455.850 students, ed) has decided to attend a high school. Only one out of three, 30.7%, opted for a technical school and 14% chose a vocational school.

But how many of these choices are available to Italian students?
There are various options. In terms of high schools in Italy there are six programs: arts, music or choreographic high school, human sciences high school (with a socio-economic option) and the three most popular, classics which last year was chosen by 152 thousand kids, languages with 224 thousand students and in first place with 336 thousand enrolments, sciences, which in turns offer two options, applied sciences and sports sciences. To these we can add technical schools that offer a solid cultural and technological base and at the same time they foster the development of competencies that allow a faster inclusion in the world of employment. With a Technical school diploma, you can still go on to study at university, especially in science, technology and finance programs, or specialize further at other technical schools.

Since 2018, the Miur has approved the testing, involving high schools and technical schools, that allows students to graduate in 4 years instead of the traditional five. To date there are about 200 schools that have joined the initiative. One class per school can take part to the experimentation. A “short diploma” can be a good option to get up to speed with the majority of other European students and start university or work a year early. Technical schools are divided into two macro-sectors, economic and technological, and offer in total 11 modality: administration, finance and marketing; tourism; mechanics; mechatronics and energy; transport and logistics; electronics electrical engineering; information technology and telecommunications; graphics and communication; chemistry, materials and biotechnology; fashion systems; agrarian, food and wine and food industry; construction,

After high school, kids have to correctly speak Italian, understand mathematics, be able to express themselves in English

Elena Ugolini, principal of the Malpighi Lyceum in Bologna, Italy

Another option available to students are vocational schools that include a biennium that is common to everyone and a triennium aimed at focusing on the training of kids according to the potential variations of the specific study plan. Vocational schools are characterized, like the technical schools, by eleven study areas: agriculture, rural development, valorization of territory products and forest and mountain area management; commercial fishing and fishery products, Made in Italy manufacturing and craftsmanship; maintenance and technical assistance; water management and environmental remediation; commercial services; food and wine and hospitality; cultural and entertainment services; services for healthcare and social assistance; auxiliary services for healthcare: dental technician; auxiliary services for healthcare: optician. The two-year professional course includes 2112 hours: 1188 hours of activities and lessons of general tuition and 924 hours of activities and specialty tuition, including laboratory hours.

Choosing is therefore not that easy…
Choosing is therefore not that easy. And despite the variety on offer, the analysis of enrollments of previous years shows that high schools are still the most popular option. But will it be the right one? The report of the Excelsior information system “Forecast of employment and professional needs in Italy in the short term (2019-2023)” curated by Unioncamere and Anpal (Agenzia Nazionale Politiche Attive Lavoro - National Agency for Active Labor Policies), highlights how “Digital Transformation” and Environmental Sustainability will carry a decisive weight in characterizing the occupational needs of various economic sectors, involving up to 30% of workers.
In particular, according to the report, it is estimated that companies will seek between 270.000 and about 300.000 workers with specific mathematical and IT skills, either digital or “Industry 4.0” related.

Today it is estimated that the ICT sector, over 135 thousand positions will be vacant because of a lack of qualified professionals

Lidia Molinari, people advisor director for Adecco Italia

“Today” Lidia Molinari, people advisor director at Adecco Italiasays, “we estimate that in the ICT sector there will be over 135 thousand vacant positions due to a lack of qualified professionals”. Basically, in Italy companies lack workforce. The Excelsior surveys highlighted how companies are already struggling to find candidates with digital skills. Moreover - and this is the most critical topic - the difficulties in finding candidates depends not only on an inadequate quantitative offer, but also on inadequate levels of preparation, that can be traced back to shortcomings of the educational system.

In light of this data, why do people continue to prefer high schools? “In Italy”, Molinari continues, “the high schools are still seen as a more prestigious type of school compared to technical schools, Yet what we see everyday is a mismatch between demand and offer, particularly in the sector of IT technology and communication and in manufacturing, where technicians and qualified workers are needed, not graduates. Technical schools, to date, are an effective solution. The main problem is information. What we should ask ourselves is if families, and kids, are actually informed in terms of potential and opportunities that technical or professional schools offer”.

So how can the best choice be made?
“There is a problem of general culture, Elena Ugolini, principal of the Malpighi Lyceum in Bologna, Italy, member of the Supreme Council for Public Education and Undersecretary of Education during the Monti government. “Until a few years ago people used to say “if you don’t study I’m going to send you to work” as if work was a bad thing, a punishment. Now it’s increasingly important, instead, that studying can turn into a job, that it’s effective and really helps kids grow up. Technical matters can also be studied with the same commitment and depth you study Latin and ancient Greek and properly studying at a technical school, where you learn mechanics and IT and where you can gain practical experience of what you’re studying, can have an enormous training value.”

The quality of the chosen school is crucial for success: “It’s not enough”, says Ugolini, “to say ‘I study the classics’ or ‘I study sciences’ as evidence of having chosen a more qualified path compared to others. Every path, if done properly, can have a huge training value, regardless of whether it is a lyceum, a technical school or a vocational school. The real matter, that families that are helping the kids in their choices should be interested in, is understanding how schools can put together a high quality educational and training offer. So the first piece of advice is to gather information on the running of the schools and the study plan, asking for opinions from people already attending.

What destroys the future of kids is attending a school for 5 years with demotivated people who discourage them instead of fascinating them”.

So any choice is good if it is an informed decision. “No less important” Ugolini explains “are the desires and the passions of the kids themselves: to think about choosing a high school only based on the potential jobs in the next few years makes no sense. It is important to push kids to choose something that will be based on their strengths.” The topic of employment is obviously important. “Today, however” Ugolini explains, “there are three year bachelor degrees, masters and even professionalizing post diploma courses that allow us to acquire more technical skills even after high school. So those who choose a lyceum, one out of two students, is not destined to be left out of the world of employment. But, no matter the type of high school chose, three fundamental skills need to be acquired before graduating: being able to speak Italian, understanding mathematics, and being able to speak English perfectly”.

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