“Vocational education and training has been neglected. If “strong vocational programmes increase competitiveness”, “many programmes fail to meet labour market needs” writes the OECD in LEARNING FOR JOBS: SUMMARY AND POLICY MESSAGES.
The OCDE review “aims to bridge the gap between learning and jobs, by exploring how to make initial vocational education and training for young people respond better to labour market requirements.” (freely adapted excerpts by Job Market Monitor are quoted below)
Why and how should government support initial vocational education and training?
- Public investment in initial VET can deliver good economic returns
- Things vary widely from country to country. In some countries young teenagers enter vocational programmes; others leave it to the postsecondary phase
- Alongside immediate job skills VET students need the wider competencies to sustain career development
- Numeracy and literacy skills require systematic assessment to provide support for those who need it
- The mix of provision in vocational programmes needs to balance student preference and employer demand
- But this balance also depends on the funding provided by government, student and employers
- As careers diversify, career guidance is becoming both more important and more challenging
- But career guidance has serious weaknesses in many OECD countries
- Career guidance needs to be coherent, well-resourced, proactive, objective, and well-supported by evidence.
Effective teachers and trainers
- VET teachers and trainers need to be familiar with the modern workplace
- In industry, those who supervise trainees and apprentices need preparation for the task
- All VET systems need to take full advantage of workplace learning
- Quality control of workplace learning is essential
- A range of incentives help to sustain the commitment of students and industry to workplace learning
Tools to support the vocational education and training system
- VET systems need to engage key stakeholders, and the information to make the system transparent
- Strong institutions are needed to engage employers, unions and the interests of students in VET
- Qualifications frameworks can be useful to VET systems, but they need to be linked to other measures
- A standardised assessment for VET qualifications ensures consistency in standards
- Better data, particularly on the labour market outcomes of VET, are vital
Provide the right mix of skills for the labour market
- For vocational programmes beyond secondary level, share the costs between government, employers and individual students according to the benefits obtained.
- Provide a mix of VET training places that reflect both student preferences and employer needs. Achieve this through the provision of workplace training and through planning and incentive mechanisms.
- Engage employers and unions in curriculum development and ensure that the skills taught correspond to those needed in the modern workplace.
- Through VET systems, provide young people with the generic, transferable skills to support occupational mobility and lifelong learning, and with the occupationally-specific skills that meet employers’ immediate needs.
- Ensure all students in vocational programmes have adequate numeracy and literacy skills to support lifelong learning and career development. Identify and tackle weaknesses in this area.
Reform career guidance to deliver well-informed career advice for all
- Develop a coherent career guidance profession, independent from psychological counselling and well-informed by labour market information.
- Provide adequate resources for guidance and pro-active delivery.
- Ensure an independent base to support objective career guidance.
- Provide good sources of information about careers and courses.
- Build a comprehensive framework of guidance through partnership with employers.
- Ensure that career guidance initiatives are properly evaluated.
Ensure teachers and trainers combine good workplace experience with pedagogical and other preparation
- Deliver sufficient recruitment of teachers and trainers for VET institutions, and ensure this workforce is well-acquainted with the needs of modern industry. To this end:
- Encourage part-time working, with trainers in VET institutions spending some of their time in industry.
- Promote flexible pathways of recruitment. Facilitate the entry of those with industry skills into the workforce of VET institutions through effective preparation.
- Provide appropriate pedagogical and other preparation for trainers (including the supervisors) of interns, trainees and apprentices in workplaces, adapting the level of preparation to the nature of the workplace learning being provided.
- Encourage interchange and partnership between VET institutions and industry, so that vocational teachers and trainers spend time in industry to update their knowledge, and vocational trainers in firms spend some time in VET institutions to enhance their pedagogical skills.
Make full use of workplace learning
- Make substantial use of workplace training in initial VET.
- Ensure that the framework for workplace training encourages participation by both employers and students.
- Ensure workplace training is of good quality, through an effective quality assurance system, and through the provision of a clear contractual framework for apprenticeships.
- Balance workplace training by other provision (e.g. training workshops in schools) where other learning environments work better, or if workplace training is not available.
- Devise effective responses to the current economic downturn, to sustain workplace training, and cope with increased demand for full-time VET.
Support the VET system with tools to engage stakeholders and information to promote transparency
- Engage employers and unions in VET policy and provision and construct effective mechanisms to that end.
- Systematically engage with employers, trade unions and other key stakeholders to develop and implement qualification frameworks. Strengthen quality assurance throughout the VET system to support qualifications frameworks.
- Adopt standardised national assessment frameworks to underpin quality and consistency in training provision.
- Strengthen data on the labour market outcomes of VET, and provide the institutional capacity to analyse and disseminate that data.