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Challenges in vocational education and training

Academic education is more flexible because it allows a person to change their job easily whereas largely vocational education and training (VET) is suitable for a particular type of work. Though vocationally trained workers are more efficient in handling old technologies, however, since technology is unpredictable and changes over time, such workers require frequent training, whereas academic education enables workers to adapt to new technologies. The VET is important in other aspects such as alleviating mass unemployment, providing specific skills for self-employment, preventing mass movement of school leavers from rural to urban areas, and re-orientating student attitudes towards rural society. Another related challenge is the extent to which the formal education system should be vocationalised. This is important for at least two reasons: firstly, how the required skills will be provided, if not through vocational education, and secondly, given the substantial amount of subsidy allocated to VET programmes, whether the returns on these spendings are optimal. These issues are difficult to resolve, and owing partly to data unavailability, are hardly addressed in many countries. Both the supply side (for example, where should VET be focused?), and the demand side (for example, who wants to be vocationally trained?) factors are important to identify in addressing these challenges. Though another macro-element that influences the solutions is the availability of job opportunities in an economy.

On the other hand, another challenge is that most VET Students or learners have previously participated in a range of different kinds of educational programmes and experiences and have secured different levels of success. These learners are also at different stages in their careers and working lives (i.e., workforce entrants, novice practitioners, newly qualified practitioners, or experienced practitioners). For instance, they can include the women seeking to return to working life after being the principal care giver to children or aging parents, young school leavers trying to find an occupation that meets their needs, and then participants who have been recently retrenched from their job or who are long-term unemployed. Moreover, these educational needs frequently extend well beyond occupational concepts and procedures. Whereas students in prestigious academic education in vocational courses such as medicine, law and commerce likely have high levels of educational achievements, VET learners are not so well positioned in terms of their needs and the provisions of educational support available to them. That is, the VET learners needs and those provided through VET programmes or systems are not always well aligned because of their readiness to engage in studies, their interests, the options available to them and their bases for participating in VET. Moreover, the content of courses is often determined by external bodies whose interests and emphases may or may not be consistent with those of the students. And thus, because of this complex combination of factors and characteristics, VET students represent potentially the most heterogeneous cohort of learners in terms of interests, readiness, prior experiences, or potential for engagements of any of the key educational sectors (secondary or higher education).

Authors of the Report

The project Competences for the Future – Matching the Needs of the Labour Market benefits from a € 106 000 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. The aim of the project is to update the education offer through the exchange of opinions and good practices between organizations with experience in the field of vocational education of youth and adults.