"Scratch is programming intensive if you want it to be."
Well, then it appears that no one wants it to be because the showcase is nothing but animation and graphics and very little programming. Reminds me of the other "math engagements" with no math. A better project would be to task the students with creating Scratch (from scratch), rather than consuming it. That is what we did when I was in high school.
And why shouldn't school, including high school, lead towards gainful employment? Isn't the next generation already in debt enough to education as it is?
In any event, when you say "vocational" or "polytechnic" people think trade.
I capitalized "business" in my statement about 3D printers because this is exactly the same model as TI calculators, which you hate. The only ones profiting from it are the people selling the toys to the schools. Now, if you had the class build a 3D printer, that would actually mean something, but not much fun for the teacher/consumer who has their eye on a brand new shiny 3D toy.
Consuming tech isn't what STEM is about. A shop class 40 years ago, with real tools, and building real things, had a ton more STEM in it than a classroom that buys a 3D printer and some filament. In aerodynamics class (in high school) we built a single seat plane. Our physics teacher was also a pilot and flight enthusiast.
A lot of professions begin after high school, and a lot of programmers start that way as well, or are drafted out of college before they complete their degree. I guess poor them, with a paycheck and the ability to support themselves and a family, while their peers live with their parents and wait 20 years for their student loans to be paid off or forgiven.