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Technical Education/Vocational Training Promotion

You asked us to summarize how technical education and vocational training programs use online advertising, social media, offline advertising, and PR efforts to grow awareness of their programs and recruit students. We found that Hostos Community College in the Bronx has utilized both social media and offline advertising. Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan advertises online via YouTube and Pandora. A statewide campaign in West Virginia promoting vocational training for high school students is our example for PR efforts.


I could not find exact costs for any of these advertising efforts. When publicly available, advertising costs are discussed in broad terms. For example, both Facebook and YouTube state that businesses set their own budgets for advertising. Pandora charges $8-$12 for every thousand people that hear an audio ad.

The offline advertising campaign for Hostos Community College is more than 2 years old, but we included it as we were unable to find such comprehensive information on a more recent offline campaign. We found that print ads in magazines and newspapers have seen recent double digit decreases, which likely explains the lack of newer information on print ad campaigns.

online advertising

Since social media has its own category in this request, I looked at online advertising efforts outside of Facebook and Twitter. The central campus for Kellogg Community College is in Battle Creek, Michigan. Overall, the school's five campuses have a combined annual enrollment of 10,500 students.

The community college's YouTube account has 2.2k subscribers, and within the last six months Kellogg has posted 15 videos to promote the college. One particular video, "KCC is about home," has had 6,900 views.

Aside from promotional videos posted on their own channel, we were unable to find any information on paid ads the college may have on YouTube. I was unable to find exact costs for advertising on YouTube, only that businesses set their own advertising budgets.

Kellogg has also aired a 30-second ad on Pandora. Webpage FX reports that Pandora charges $8-$12 for every thousand people that hear an audio ad. Pandora's website requires completing a registration process for pricing information.

social media

Hostos Community College is in the Bronx and is a part of CUNY. Their Facebook page has 5,245 followers, and is updated regularly. As of February 10th, the page had 3 posts for the month. Besides using Facebook to promote the school and communicate about events such as job fairs, their page highlights the achievements of current and past students and faculty. For example, earlier this month Hostos posted that one of their students was crowned Miss New York USA.

Since a Facebook account is free, Hostos Community College does not have to pay anything to promote the college on their own page. I was unable to find any information on paid ads Hostos may have on Facebook. Searching Facebook ads broadly, I found that businesses create a budget and Facebook works within that budget, stating, “If you want to spend $5 a week, you can. If you want to spend $50,000 a week, you can do that too.”

offline advertising

In addition to being our social media example, Hostos Community College also has a robust example of offline advertising. Their "The Skills to Do the Job" print campaign included an ad in the NY Yankees' official magazine and direct mail. This campaign was aimed at adults seeking to upgrade their skills. Print ads prominently featured student Lina Cruz, who was interning with the NY Yankees at the time.

The total cost of "The Skills to Do the Job" ad campaign is not publicly available. We found that magazine ad prices vary, depending on the placement of the ad, the size of the ad, and the magazine's circulation. Since we were unable to find circulation numbers for the New York Yankees' official magazine, we could not estimate or triangulate what an ad in that magazine might cost. We found that the prices for direct mail campaigns vary, from 30 cents to more than $10 per person. Factors that affect the cost include whether the business is doing their own copywriting and graphic design, or if those tasks have been outsourced. We were unable to find the circulation numbers for the direct mail portion of campaign, so we were unable to estimate the costs.

While this ad campaign is older than two years old, we included it as it is a robust example of a print initiative for a community college. We were unable to find such comprehensive information on a more recent print campaign, likely due to the recent sharp decrease in print ads. In the second quarter of 2017, there was a 16% decline in magazine ad sales, and a 20% decline in newspaper ads. Meanwhile, social media ads increased by 55% in that time period.

PR efforts

It was difficult to find isolated examples of PR efforts that weren't part of a broader advertising campaign. For example, the Hostos Community College print campaign by Foundry appeared to be a full-service campaign that included everything from content creation to execution.

The most relevant example of PR efforts we could find is a statewide campaign in West Virginia to increase vocational training and "workplace simulation" amongst high school students. The Simulated Workplace Resource Guide discusses the program's initiatives as a whole, and is not tied to any one training program or school. We were unable to find information on who created this brochure.

Vocational training has been integrated into high school education in WV and is quickly becoming the norm, so any promotional efforts certainly appear to be successful. In 2016, 37% of high school seniors in WV had completed vocational training. This is up from just 18% in 2010. More than 24,000 students participate at 1,200 Simulated Workplace locations every year. These simulated workplaces provide vocational training in real-world settings.


To wrap it up, we found examples of community colleges and vocational training programs in the U.S. that use online advertising, social media, offline advertising and PR efforts to promote awareness of their programs. We were unable to find exact costs for any of these campaigns. When publicly available, we provided as much information as we could around advertising costs, such as Pandora ads and direct mail.
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Technical Education/Vocational Training Marketing Case Studies

Marketing case studies are included from the following two technical schools: Lake Area Technical College and North Central Kansas Technical College. These technical school marketing campaigns have been deemed successful due to their inclusion on a list of the top technical colleges in the United States from The "It's Your World" campaign from Insight Marketing Design for Lake Area Technical College was successful at increasing student enrollment on a year-to-year basis. The "Get Unstuck" campaign for North Central Kansas Technical College successfully reached the target adult student population and generated direct inquiries about the posters and information cards distributed throughout the state.

Lake Area Technical College

Insight Marketing Design's marketing campaign for Lake Area Technical College reportedly increased student enrollment in a case study for the school, measuring success for the marketing and branding campaign. In 2014, the Fall enrollment at Lake Area Technical College surpassed its record for the eleventh consecutive year, reporting an 8.5% increase in student enrollment from the previous year. The 2014 school year saw a Fall semester enrollment of 1729 students, up from the 1593 students enrolled in the previous year.

Insight Marketing Design used unique and eye-catching visuals in its marketing campaign for Lake Area Technical College, incorporating ads for television, magazine, billboards, and online that "break through the clutter." The marketing campaign targeted junior and senior high schoolers seeking admission to post-secondary education programs. The uplifting tagline created by Insight for Lake Area Technical College ("It's Your World") exemplifies the college vision of preparing students for the real world while they pursue their future career dreams.

Aspen Institute rated the Lake Area Technical College as a top tier two-year college for three consecutive years in a row, winning the technical school an overwhelming increase in enrollment from more traditional aged high-school students versus non-traditional age brackets.

North Central Kansas Technical College

The goal of the marketing campaign outlined in the North Central Kansas Technical College case study is to bring awareness to the AO-K Proviso and GED Accelerator programs offered at the school. The target market are Kansas area adults without a high school diploma or GED looking to pursue education at a two-year vocational school.

The "Get Unstuck" marketing campaign was successful at generating awareness of financial aid available to the target demographic through its use of visual media, which included 1,600 posters and 5,000 information cards distributed in 600 different locations, such as libraries and GED testing centers.

Director of the campaign, Breeze Richardson, remarked that success was measured by a number of direct calls and enrollment office visits generated by the "Get Unstuck" posters, videos and online search traffic for North Central Kansas Technical College.


The case studies of marketing campaigns for Lake Area Technical College and North Central Kansas Technical College have been included and deemed successful based on their inclusion in a list of the top technical colleges in the United States from The "It's Your World" campaign created by Insight Marketing Design for Lake Area Technical College was successful at consecutively increasing student enrollment, and the "Get Unstuck" campaign for North Central Kansas Technical College successfully converted the target adult student population through direct inquiries about the posters and rack information cards distributed throughout hundreds of locations in the state.
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Top recruitment methods for technical education/vocational training.

Today, technical colleges, vocational schools and community colleges have to be as strategic and innovative as 4 year colleges to attract and retain students. Many of the strategies used by the 4-year sector are now being incorporated by 2 year colleges. Based on comparisons of the top strategies used by higher education facilities, the 3 top recruitment methods for technical education/vocational training include innovation, partnership, and showing prospective students the amenities, perks opportunities available to them at a college or trade school.


Technology has become a major factor in modern recruitment tactics. Mobile applications, college websites and social media have become major players in today’s recruitment effort. In January 2014, North Carolina Central University had over 10,000 student applications, with 44% of those being completed and submitted from mobile devices.
Numerous technical schools, community colleges and 4 year colleges today have a website for both prospective and current students. Students considering a school can often take a virtual tour of the campus, view on-line course catalogs and submit on-line applications directly from the site. Many of these schools also offer on-line classes, making them more attractive to modern students with busy schedules.
Community colleges and technical/trade schools are also incorporating advertising as a means of recruitment. Along with websites, posters and brochures are yet another means for schools to reach out to prospective students, with high schools being major distribution points.

According to market research, "web-based tools and strategies are the best way for universities to recruit and admit students. Email campaigns, user-friendly websites, and online recruitment produce the best results for schools hoping to reach the widest, most qualified students." Innovation has known to help raise graduation levels from schools from 25% to 75%, thereby increasing matriculation numbers to high schools.


Technical colleges, trade schools, and community colleges are having to change their approach to recruiting in order to compete with four year colleges for new enrollment. In the past, these schools were attended by local students and often the credits acquired during attendance were non-transferable to a four-year college or university.
Today, community colleges, as well as some technical and trade schools are partnering with four year institutions in a joint recruitment effort. Many also offer transferable credits, enticing potential students to begin their college career at a community college or trade/vocational school before transferring to a four-year college to complete their education.

Even after an extensive search through websites of relevant educational institutions and credible media sources, no statistics were found that signify the success of partnership as a recruitment strategy.


Guided tours are often a key factor when choosing a college or technical school. Many community colleges and technical/trade schools today are offering campus tours along with professional mentor-ship as a means of recruiting new students. In a 2016 study, it was found that students became interested in a career technical education after taking a tour of a joint vocational school, with 60.4% of respondents basing their decision on the tour.
Social media and college websites are another example of “showing” students the benefits of their institution rather than just “telling” about it. Virtual tours and instant access is quite popular with millennial students, giving them the opportunity to do things their own way in their own time. Social media and school websites are taking over in popularity in comparison to traditional fliers, mailers, posters, and brochures, giving today’s students a more interactive recruiting experience.

Although older sources exhibit some data on the success of show vs. tell as a recruitment strategy, like those mentioned above, there are no newer sources that shed light on this topic.


With the incorporation of modern technology, partnering with 4 year colleges and personal interaction in guided tours; trade schools, technical colleges and community colleges have become more strategic in their modern recruiting techniques.
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What are the methods prospective students of technical education/vocational training programs use to research and learn about potential programs to enroll in?


Prospective students seem to glean a great deal of their information about technical education/vocational training programs directly from digital sources. However, the importance of non-digital or in-person research via conversations has not diminished in importance in making the final decision to commit to a school. Overall, a loosely-ranked list of methods used for research by prospective students is as follows.
1. Website
2. Mobile Website
3. Social Media — Facebook
4. Social Media — Other
5. Conversations with Faculty/Instructors
6. Conversations with Peers, Friends, Alumni
7. Admissions Staff
8. Tours
9. Rankings
10. Outside-the-box Marketing Ideas
The following body of research breaks down these ten methods/concepts further. Please Note: The 2014 study noted below, although a bit dated, is the most comprehensive and recent study profiling these behaviors, so it was included as a valuable resource for this information. Other sources were selected based on their relativity to the question and usefulness to the client.


The official website of the school or training program has been shown to be the most commonly cited source of information for prospective students. 99% of respondents in a 2014 study cited the official university website as essential to their search, higher than any other source of information. The website itself is described as being “the ultimate brand statement” that students look to for not just for important information by-the-numbers, but also to formulate their first impression of or feel for the school.

Mobile Websites

While 63.1% of research for a university is still done on a laptop or desktop computer, 21.9% of research is done on a smartphone and 15% is done on a tablet. According to a 2014 study specifically targeting vocational school prospective students, 97% of students visited the school’s website on their smartphones at some point during their search and found the mobile version lacking. This avenue of research is thus extremely important for today’s generation of prospective students.

Social Media — Facebook

In general, nearly 68% of prospective students use social media at some point during their research. In a 2014 study, 10% of survey respondents reported social media as essential to their research, 20% reported it as very important, and 32% reported it as quite important. While some reports indicate that teenagers are leaving Facebook in favor of other social media sites, researchers in 2014 found that eight out of 10 teenagers are still active on Facebook. Facebook is the top cited social media resource for all age groups. Students are more likely to look for information about the student experience or how to talk with peers at the school on Facebook, though some still use it as a way to seek out professional contact info. Facebook ads also seem to be cited as influential for vocational school research.

Social Media — Other

Other social media sites include Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. Snapchat has even been cited on some occasions. Schools, on average, advertise across 3.7 social media platforms, with the maximum being as many as seven. Twitter and Google+ seem to consistently account for roughly 10% of social media school research each across all age groups of prospective students. LinkedIn seems to appeal more to older prospective students. The number of platforms doesn’t seem to matter as much as how the social media is used. Hashtags help teens communicate more efficiently across certain platforms. Visual content such as photography, infographics, videos, or gifs seem to additionally engage prospective students. Only about 20% of content created is actually read online, illustrating a trend that prospective students need to be able to glean information quickly and easily from these platforms. Additionally, content should be entertaining, emotional, and authentic according to a 2015 marketing blog.

Conversations with Faculty/Instructors

Across all age groups, around two-thirds of prospective students value offline communication equally as much as online communication. Opportunities to meet with faculty and staff members in person, or at least to individually contact them via phone or email, seems to be one of the biggest non-digital factors for prospective students in choosing a school. Students at vocational schools in particular seem to seek out 1) emails that include teacher profiles specific to their area of interest and 2) events on-location that are tailored to investigating their programs of study.

Conversations with Peers, Friends, Alumni

In addition to seeking out faculty connections, prospective students also value talking directly with peers, friends, and alumni to make their decisions. These conversations do not tend to help in cultivating leads on schools, but they do tend to aid students in the decision to choose between schools.

Admissions Staff

Students often site admissions staff as being important in their school decision-making process. They tend to be dissuaded by sales-driven admission staff, but encouraged by those that take the time to make a personal connection. Students seem to be more engaged with admissions departments that focus on them as being a good fit for the school rather than simply getting more bodies and more numbers. In order to feel like they are of value to the school, around 97% of prospective students want to hear from the admissions department roughly once a week via email.


Tours and visits to the school additionally seem to be a part of the decision-making process for prospective students. Students report responding best to spontaneity and excitement during tours, though they also want tours to feel personal. Tours tend to “seal the deal.”


94.4% of prospective students list ranking websites as part of their research into potential schools. While it is no longer the most influential factor, especially among older prospective students, it is still shown to be impactful in the decision-making process.

Outside-the-box Marketing Ideas

Prospective students cite other strange, yet engaging, marketing strategies as influential in their decision-making process. Blogs are growing in importance specifically to those looking into vocational schools. Virtual tours or games, information on school efforts to “go green,” give-aways or freebies, tailored material for non-traditional students, and TV/radio advertisement seem to be new ways to engage with prospective students. On a more interactive note, Facebook forums and live chat sessions seem to also be appealing to today’s prospective students.


Prospective students today seem to be interested in many forms of both online and offline research in order to make an informed decision on technical education/vocational schools. The main methods of obtaining information compiled in this answer include the official website, mobile website access, Facebook and other social media websites, conversations with faculty, peers, and admissions staff, tours of the facilities, rankings, and other outside-the-box marketing strategies.

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What do prospective students of technical education/vocational training programs look for when doing research on which to enroll in?


Vocational schools and trade schools are a great vehicle for students who want to quickly enter well paying highly skilled careers. Vocational schools teach job specific skills and place emphasis on practical as opposed to academic training. I have listed below some to the top considerations in choosing a vocational school.

Top considerations

1. Career Prospects -- If a student already has a career in mind, then schools providing training in that career is the first item to consider. Getting training in a career of choice will have the student in a rewarding and paying career in the shortest amount of time.

2. Programs Offered — Many vocational schools providing training for in-demand careers offer Certificate and Asscoiate Degree programs lasting 2 to 4 years. Students should look at the curriculum for these programs to make sure that they are in tune with the current marketplace.

3. Facility — Are the school's facilities up-to-date? Do they have the latest technology and equipment? Are there supplies the student must buy? What is the instructor to student ratio?

4. Cost — What is the total cost, payment by course, by semester or by program. In addition to tuition, lab fees, graduation fees, books, uniforms, equipment. The student needs to consider what financing options are available and how much debt do successful student have on graduation.

5. Graduation Rate — Student graduation rate indicates how well the students like the course. A large dropout rate indicates that the students do not like the course.

6. Placement Rate — A high placement rate indicates that the school works hard to prepare its students for a career in the field of study. However, the student needs to investigate the success claims.

7. Accreditation — The student should contact the school's licensing and accreditation organizations to understand the school's standing. "Good vocational programs are accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, get input from industry leaders regularly about the skills students need to be successful in the workplace, replicate the environment and standards students will experience in the field and have qualified instructors and up-to-date equipment to prepare students for today's work environment", says Bob Kessler, campus president at Universal Technical Institute in Exton, Pennsylvania.

8. Student Feedback — Prospective students should talk to current students about their experiences with the school and get a sense of what is actually happening at the school.

9. Instructors' methods — Ask about the instructors' qualifications and class sizes. Students could also sit in on a class and observe the instructor and student interaction to get a better sense of how classes are conducted.

10. Additional Services — The student needs to look to see whether other services such as career guidance and co-op programs are available during training and placement services and assistance
is available on completion of the course.


These ten items are the top considerations but they are not the complete list. Other factors of consideration can be more diverse and specific to each student.