Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in Chile

About Career Colleges and Vocational Schools in Chile

Two decades of booming economic growth following the emergence of Chile from under the boot of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship have caused tremendous demand for a well-trained workforce, and this in turn has brought about a need for career colleges and vocational schools in Chile’s towns, cities, and villages. The government of Chile, as well as its citizens and civil society more broadly, recognize that the rapid growth of the 1990s and early 2000s can only be sustained through a commitment to training and investment in human capital. Thus, the need for vocational training is considered to be an urgent priority. In recent years, Chilean officials have been interested in following the German model of technical training, in which applied sciences are taught from a young age and in an intensive fashion to students who are interested in high-demand fields like engineering, biotechnology, and design.
For many young Chileans, vocational training begins in high school. In Chile, school is compulsory from age 5 to 18, but students at age 16 can, if they choose, opt for two years of vocational rather than academic schooling. The Technical-Professional option for secondary school students and teenagers has four divisions: industrial (mechanics, electricity, metalwork, etc.); technical (a catch-all term for everything from culinary school to childcare programs); commercial (business administration, accounting, finance, etc.); and polyvalent, which refers to combination programs that draw on two or more of the other fields. All of these paths are popular with working-class students, many of whom see it as a way to get a head start in their chosen line of work.
The main challenge facing the career college and vocational training system in Chile is a lack of integration among different schools, and between schools and the industries they serve. Rapid growth over the last two decades has caused the system to be somewhat incoherent, lacking common standards and methods of evaluation. In general, it is up to individual schools to decide what courses should be offered, how they should be taught, and what practical job advice should be given to graduates upon completion of the program. This is less of a problem in the secondary schools, which are administered by the government. However, there are many vocational training centers that serve adults, and these have not developed in as sophisticated a way as their government-run counterparts.
This emphasis on training and education bodes well for Chile’s continued economic success. Even as the country, and the world, are buffeted by unpredictable winds of economic change in the coming years, it is clear that an adaptable, well-educated workforce is crucial for any country’s success. Chile, having recognized this, is well-positioned to continue its meteoric rise to prominence in the global marketplace.

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