Lauren Moore, blogging back in February at The Future of Children website, discusses the need for the U.S. to prepare millions of young people for jobs that require something more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a college bachelor's degree (there are also, of course, millions of future jobs that will require a bachelor's degree).
Moore alludes in her posting to a Harvard Graduate School of Education report that "recommends identifying career fields of interest early on, and then creating pathways by which students can learn the skills they need to succeed in those occupations, some of which involve a bachelor's degree and some of which do not."
In this way, the posting reminds me of the distinction between American and European systems of transitioning young people from education to occupations. As Jeff Arnett writes in his 2004 book Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties, "In most European countries, young people separate into different schools by age 14 or 15, with some entering schools that will prepare them for college and others entering schools that will prepare them for a trade, such as electronics or auto mechanics" (p. 132).
Arnett discusses the pros and cons of the American and European systems. Essentially, these boil down to the European system promoting focus and occupational progress, but at the cost of requiring individuals to choose their educational/occupational life path at a very early age (with it being very difficult to change course down the line). The American system, by not requiring early focus and commitment, allows for exploration (potentially good), but with the possibility of such exploration transforming into floundering.