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Vocational education: A diverse field of education

Vocational education and training (VET) focus on specific trades and imparts the practical skills which allow the individuals to engage in a specific occupational activity. So, VET is not only important in providing employment opportunities to individuals but also helps in enhancing productivity since vocational education and training are both indispensable instruments for improving labour mobility, adaptability, and productivity, therefore contributing to enhancing enterprises’ competitiveness and redressing labour market imbalances. Thus, VET comprises all skill transfers, formal and informal, which are required in the improvement of productive activities of a sustainable society.

Of the key educational fields, VET is probably the least homogenous. Indeed, its diversity in terms of its purposes, methodology, institutions, participants, and programmes stands as being one of its keys and defining characteristics. Hence, VET serves a broad set of interests in quite distinct ways across a range of fields. However, this very diversity makes such difficult a unitary description or singular account. Moreover, as the factors that shape the purposes, forms, processes, and manifestations of the VET are evolving in distinct ways across different fields, in response to social and economic imperatives, they are also far more dynamic and prone to transformation than primary, secondary, or higher education. This diversity is also problematic because it is not often possible to readily transfer or apply the concepts from one circumstance to another. This is because their histories, institutions, and imperatives, and even trajectories are distinct. In many countries, imperatives brought about by industrialisation and the formation of modern nation states have led to the establishment of VET. These inevitably exist as a tertiary level beyond schooling and sit alongside, but usually in a posterior position to university programmes. VET is an education sector that which usually comprises the key non-university element of national tertiary education systems. However, the important point here is that amongst the educational fields, VET has the broadest range of institutions, and their formation, transformation and associations are products of impetuses within their countries. For instance, the Norwegian education system has programmes of the VET schools of two kinds: The Upper Secondary Vocational Schools and The Tertiary Vocational Education Colleges, while in other countries, vocational education and training provisions are seen as being an extension of the schooling system. Yet, in certain times and in some countries, the VET sector has been deliberately separated from other educational sectors on the grounds of it needing to be more aligned with the demands of industry needs than other educational sectors. The distinctiveness of VET is found within the combination of cultural and functional contexts within society and the norms, attitudes and beliefs and ideals within societal and social subsystems which extend to the organisation of institutions.

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.