Tale of two cities: UK and USA vocational school leaders' perceptions and experiences

Joseph O'Brien, Fordham University


This qualitative cross-national case study was designed to explore two vocational education and training (VET) school leaders in the UK and two career and technical education (CTE) school leaders in the USA: their perceptions about their country's vocational education system, their schools' level of engagement with academe and industry, how to overcome the stigma of vocational education, and their shared lived experiences. In the UK, one school was located in the West Midlands and one in London. In the USA, one school was located in Manhattan and one in an outer borough. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews, analyses of school documents and websites, and field notes based on extensive site visits. All four leaders believed that vocational education could help to provide a skilled workforce, but that for vocational career pathways to excel, additional financial and resource-oriented government, industry, and academe support was critical. All leaders also commented on the lack of effective teachers, shrinking financial resources, and difficulty providing multiple vocational programs. They emphasized that collaboration with industry and academe was essential for school success, but only two of the four leaders, whose schools were located in urban sites, reported that their schools had fully developed collaborations with industry. They contended that vocational education continued to be perceived as a second-class pathway and that effective marketing was essential to overcome societal negative perceptions. Based on the findings, the researcher offers recommendations to enhance future educational practice.

Subject Area

American studies|European Studies|Educational leadership|Vocational education

Recommended Citation

O'Brien, Joseph, "Tale of two cities: UK and USA vocational school leaders' perceptions and experiences" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3703267.