Reinforcing Vocational Education

  • Prosperity
  • 1998

Former Intel co-founder Andrew Grove wanted to overturn the common assumption among educators, parents, and students that technical education is for less intelligent people. So he funded vocational-training scholarships at community colleges and nonprofit training groups. The value of the scholarships ranges from $500 to $5,000 per year, and “the people for whom we provide support are not those who intend to transfer to four-year universities,” as Grove puts it. These recipients intend to go right to work in a practical career.

Grove’s aim, in addition to helping individuals, was to raise the American estimate of vocational education to the level of respect it receives in European countries. In Germany there is a tradition of skilled apprenticeships that serve as rungs on the ladder into the middle class, and Grove believes the U.S. could benefit from similar mechanisms. He believes philanthropy must play a significant role in this, because government and market forces are not excelling at the task.

Over two decades, Grove distributed more than 100 scholarships per year. Then in 2005 he took more concentrated action to bolster technical education, announcing a $26 million donation to the City College, New York City’s low-cost institution of higher ed, to invigorate its school of engineering. This gift also provided for successive cohorts of Grove Scholars.