Washington, Nov. 11 – While disability issues were not discussed during last night’s debate, Republican hopeful Marco Rubio brought up a very important topic – the stigma attached to vocational training as an alternative to traditional college.
“For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education,” the Senator from Florida said. “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”
Many journalists from The Washington Post to Slate focused on the second half of the statement, showing that Rubio is wrong and “philosophy majors make way more than welders.”
However, the first part of the statement is the important issue – the stigma surrounding vocational rehabilitation is very real and unwarranted.
While many people with disabilities go on to college, some go into vocational training while in high school or after graduating. One in five Americans has a disability and most people with disabilities want to work, just like everyone else.
Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. This leads to poverty and costs taxpayers billions of dollars in disability benefits. Vocational training is one tool to assist people with disabilities to enter the workforce.
Some employers miss out on hiring job applicants with disabilities due to negative stigmas and persistent myths. However evidence shows that people with disabilities can be outstanding employees, leaders within companies, and are extremely loyal workers. State vocational rehabilitation and education programs are just one way of ensuring that people with disabilities can achieve the American dream.
Ending stigmas surrounding disabilities and vocational training would result in more Americans entering the workforce in good paying jobs and no longer relying on government benefits. For every high school student placed in a job instead of sent benefits, the U.S. taxpayers save $300,000.
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