More than 40% of the relevant age group start upper secondary VET studies immediately after basic education; most of these obtain their VET qualifications at vocational institutions. All qualifications include at least six months’ on-the-job learning. The most popular fields are technology, communications and transport, and social services, health and sports. Half the students are female, though the proportion varies greatly from field to field. Technology and natural sciences are still very male-dominated areas while healthcare and social services, tourism and catering are female-dominated.
In addition to school-based upper secondary VET, vocational qualifications can be obtained in apprenticeship training or as competence-based qualifications:
• apprenticeship training includes courses at vocational institutions. The share of work-based learning (WBL) is 70% to 80%. Most apprentices are adults;
• competence-based qualifications are usually completed by adults. In addition to the 52 vocational qualifications offered, there are nearly 300 further and specialist qualifications in different fields. Vocational and further vocational qualifications are at upper secondary level and may be obtained through competence tests, independent of how vocational skills were acquired. The specialist vocational qualification is at post-secondary, non-tertiary level.
Flexibility and individualisation have become means to respond to changing labour market requirements. Studies in upper secondary VET are based on individual study plans, comprising both compulsory and optional modules. Modularisation allows for a degree of individualisation of qualifications; for example, students can include modules from other vocational qualifications (including both further and specialist vocational qualifications) or applied sciences degrees. Flexibility also enables education providers to meet both regional and local labour demands more effectively.
There are no dead-ends within the education system. From the late 1990s the vocational track has offered eligibility to access polytechnics and universities, so upper secondary VET became equal to general upper secondary education in terms of providing access to higher education.