[Excerpt] Skill demands also appear to be rising within occupations. Increasing numbers of manufacturing workers are working in production cells in which every member of the team is expected to learn every job. Production workers are being given responsibilities--quality checking, statistical process control (SPC) record keeping, resetting machines shown by SPC to be straying from target dimensions, redesigning the layout of the machines in the production cell--that used to be the sole province of supervisors, specialized technicians and industrial engineers.
What implications do these changes in skill demands have for the payoff to high school vocational education? Are workers who develop the technical skills taught in trade and technical programs, in fact, more productive when they get a job in the field? Are the skills taught in these programs still valued by the labor market? Has the payoff to high school vocational training increased along with the payoff to other skills? What changes in the way vocational education is delivered are implied by the tight labor markets for highly skilled workers? This paper attempts to answer these questions by examining four different kinds of evidence on the economic payoffs to occupationally specific training in high school.