OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training

2077-7736 (online)
2077-7728 (print)
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Higher level vocational education and training (VET) programmes are facing rapid change and intensifying challenges. What type of training is needed to meet the needs of changing economies? How should the programmes be funded? How should they be linked to academic and university programmes? How can employers and unions be engaged? The country reports in this series look at these and other questions. They form part of Skills beyond School, the OECD policy review of postsecondary vocational education and training.

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Learning for Jobs

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10 Aug 2010
9789264087460 (PDF) ;9789264082236(print)

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Learning for Jobs is an OECD study of vocational education and training designed to help countries make their Vocational Education and Training (VET) Systems  more responsive to labour market needs. It expands the evidence base, identifies a set of policy options and develops tools to appraise VET policy initiatives.
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  • Foreword
    Following a severe recession the need to help young people into work is a major objective for OECD countries and their education systems. Vocational education and training for young people can play a big role in meeting this challenge but, as this report makes clear, reforms are needed in many countries.
  • Learning for Jobs
    Vocational education and training (VET) can play a central role in preparing young people for work, developing the skills of adults and responding to the labour-market needs of the economy. Despite this role, VET has been oddly neglected and marginalised in policy discussions, often overshadowed by the increasing emphasis on general academic education and the role of schools in preparing students for university education. It has also often been seen as low status by students and the general public. As a result, comparative policy analysis is undeveloped, and there are very limited data available, especially data that can be reliably compared across countries.
  • The vocational challenge

    Countries are now giving the long-neglected topic of vocational education and training (VET) a dramatically increased profile, reflecting a recognition of its economic function and the need to grapple with emerging strains in VET systems. This heightened profile led to the launch of this OECD policy review, which involved reports on the vocational systems of 16 countries.

    While many vocational skills can in principle be learnt on the job, firms are often unwilling to invest in training. For these reasons and others, it often makes sense to provide vocational education and training to young people to ensure their smooth transition into the labour market. This report is primarily concerned with initial VET, meaning programmes designed primarily for young people. Its focus is on how VET systems can respond better to labour market needs.

  • Meeting labour market needs

    This chapter looks at how the mix of provision in vocational programmes is determined – how many people are trained in different fields – and, within each field, what mix of specific and general skills should be taught.

    Three main factors determine the mix of provision – student preference, employer needs and the limitations of existing capacity. It argues that the right balance between these factors depends on issues like who is paying for the training and the age of the student. It discusses the different potential means of assessing employer needs, and points to the practical difficulties of forecasting future skills needs.

    Graduates of vocational programmes need occupation-specific skills alongside generic transferable skills to carry them through their working career, including the ability to adapt to fast-changing workplace requirements. Numeracy and literacy skills are increasingly important in the modern workplace, and vocational systems need to give sufficient weight to them.

  • Career guidance

    One way of ensuring that vocational programmes meet labour market needs is to give VET students good guidance. As careers diversify, career choices and therefore career guidance are becoming both more important and more demanding.

    To meet this challenge, there needs to be a coherent career guidance profession, with personnel experienced in labour market issues and separated from psychological counselling. Guidance needs to be adequately resourced, with some assurance of pro-active one-to-one delivery of guidance at key career decision points. Guidance personnel need to have an independent base to underpin their objectivity, and be able to call on a wide range of information and web-based material. Strong links between schools and local employers are very important means of introducing young students to the world of work. Guidance initiatives also need to be carefully evaluated.

  • Effective teachers and trainers
    As in general education, the quality of the teaching and training profession is critical to effective learning in vocational programmes. This chapter argues that, in the face of shortages, countries need imaginative measures to encourage the recruitment of teachers and trainers, and to ensure that they have relevant and up-to-date workplace skills. This means facilitating the recruitment of practitioners from industry into vocational teaching and training, and encouraging part-time working, with trainers spending some of their time in workplaces, to improve the understanding of industry in VET institutions. Supervisors of trainees and apprentices in workplaces need relevant preparation, particularly to carry out their pedagogical role. Interchange and partnership between VET institutions and industry should be encouraged.
  • Workplace learning

    Workplace learning assumes diverse forms, ranging from short periods of job-shadowing for school students to full apprenticeships. This chapter argues that the workplace has compelling attractions as a learning environment, a good place both to learn hard skills on modern equipment and soft skills by working with people in a real-world context; improving transition from school to work by allowing employers and potential employees to get to know one another; and allowing trainees to contribute useful work. The employer offer of workplace training also provides an important signal of employer need for that variety of skill.

    But workplace learning also requires the commitment both of students and employers. This means adequate incentives for employers to offer training places, balanced by effective means of ensuring quality in the training they provide. Countries use many types of financial incentives to encourage workplace training, including direct subsidies, special tax breaks and arrangements to share the burden of training between groups of enterprises.

  • Tools to support the system
    VET systems do not exist in isolation; their effectiveness depends on their links to the labour market. This implies two types of supporting arrangements. First we need tools to engage the key stakeholders in VET – in particular so that employers can explain the skills that they need, and negotiate the provision of these skills with other stakeholders, and to ensure that the content of VET – what is taught in VET schools and in the workplace and how exams are designed – is relevant to the labour market. Second we need information tools so that the value of vocational programmes of study can be identified, recognised and analysed. These information tools include qualification frameworks, systems of assessment, and data and research. Better information might be provided either through leaver surveys, or through the development of longitudinal datasets, linking VET administrative records to later experience including employment experience. Better data need to be linked to the capacity to interpret and use those data in national institutions for VET research.
  • Annex A. National VET centres in OECD countries
  • Annex B. Summary assessments and policy recommendations for reviewed countries
  • Glossary
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