Vocational education and training (VET) is a major policy topic for countries all over the world, who are eager to learn from the best examples where participation in VET is high and youth unemployment is low. Policymakers want to know how strong VET systems manage challenges like rapid technological change, matching labor market demand for skills, attracting enrollment, and creating high-status VET programs.
There is a perception that the secret lies in the intended curricula of successful VET programs, and a curriculum comparison of better and worse programs could uncover it. The hope seems to be that such a comparison would yield a simple solution— incorporate more STEM subjects perhaps, or make sure all students learn soft skills. However, our study found that that is not the case. What differentiates the strongest and weakest VET programs is the level of linkage between actors from the education and employment systems. In this report we define and measure that linkage, then use it to compare countries’ largest upper-secondary VET programs.
This study compares the biggest VET programs in 20 top-performing countries (Table 1), selected based either on the strength of their youth labor markets as measured by the percent of young people who successfully enter the labor market after post-compulsory education or on their general education systems as measured by their performance on the OECD PISA assessment. We then use the KOF EELI to determine which systems have the strongest linkage between employers and the VET system, and compare this across countries.
We define the optimal education- employment linkage as an ideal balance of power between actors from the education system and actors from the employment system on decisions related to all processes of VET, from curriculum design through application and updating.
Overall KOF EELI scores are on a one-to-seven point scale, where seven is the best possible score. Figure 2 shows all scores by country, with focus countries in dark teal and secondary countries—with less reliable data—in light teal. The top-scoring countries are Austria (5.4) and Switzerland (5.4), followed by Denmark (4.9). The average score among these countries is 3.8. The lowest scorers are Hong Kong (3.0), Singapore (2.9), South Korea (2.9), and Japan (1.7). When we later ran the KOF EELI in the state of Colorado, its high school CTE programs scored 2.7.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Comparing international vocational education and training programs: the KOF Education-Employment Linkage Index