Executive summary

Teachers and in-company trainers are central to vocational education and training (VET), as they support the school-to-work transitions of learners from diverse backgrounds. VET teachers develop learners’ skills in school-based settings, while in-company trainers support learners during their time in work-based learning. Countries use different strategies to ensure that VET teachers and trainers are well-prepared for their teaching and training responsibilities.

First, many countries set entry requirements for the VET teaching and training profession to ensure quality and consistency, including in terms of teaching qualifications, vocational qualifications and/or work experience. Similarly, countries introduce standards and regulations regarding the organisation and delivery of in-company training, including in some cases requirements for trainers. Nonetheless, many countries do not impose any specific requirements on pedagogical qualifications or skills of trainers.

Second, initial education and training for VET teachers and trainers can ensure that they are well-prepared when taking up their role. Initial teacher education and training (ITET) allows future and new teachers to obtain the necessary skills and qualifications, and its effectiveness is well evidenced. ITET is organised differently across OECD countries, but often takes the form of a teacher-training degree course at the tertiary education level, usually including practical training. Several countries provide targeted financial support to help future VET teachers benefit from ITET. Similarly for in-company trainers, preparatory and continuous training programmes are often provided, although these programmes are mostly optional.

While entry requirements and initial education and training contribute to the quality of the teaching and training workforce, too strict requirements and lengthy and intensive preparation could discourage potential VET teachers from entering the profession and create barriers to the provision of work-based learning. This could contribute to the shortages of VET teachers and trainers that several OECD countries face – although there are many reasons for such shortages. Providing flexible ways to recruit and qualify VET teachers and trainers is therefore important, while ensuring that they are fit for their role.

Case studies from Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway offer lessons on how they manage to develop a skilled teaching and training workforce through entry requirements and training, while maintaining sufficient flexibility.

  • Entry requirements for VET teachers: All five countries require teachers to have a vocational and pedagogical qualification, and relevant work experience is also required in some cases (e.g. Denmark and Norway). The exact requirements differ between countries, education levels, and in some cases also between teachers of vocational theory and practice. Multiple routes to enter the profession are offered to overcome possible barriers, usually coupled with mechanisms to ensure that the pedagogical and professional skills of (prospective) VET teachers are up to standards. Countries that have relatively strict requirements, such as Germany and the Netherlands, provide alternative -more flexible- pathways for individuals coming from industry.

  • Entry requirements for in-company trainers: In-company trainers in all five countries are usually expected to have a vocational qualification and several years of experience. Only Germany requires companies to have at least one trainer who passed a trainer aptitude examination that testifies to their professional and pedagogical skills – although some sectors, regions or companies in the other four countries may impose similar requirements.

  • Initial training and preparation for VET teachers: All five countries operate very different ITET systems, with different length and content of programmes and different providers. In Germany, for example, teacher training at universities includes a bachelor and a master programme, followed by a preparatory service as teaching practicum. In Denmark, the VET-pedagogy diploma programme is offered by university colleges as part of the higher adult education system.

  • Initial preparation for in-company trainers: In all of the five countries, training for trainers is optional rather than mandatory. Training programmes are mostly non-formal and are offered by various providers. For example, in Canada, different provincial and territorial apprenticeship authorities, apprentice employers, industry associations as well as universities provide such training.

The case studies highlight the importance of striking the right balance between quality and flexibility for attracting and preparing VET teachers and trainers. While the countries provide varying degrees of flexibility and take different approaches to achieving this, some key pointers for balancing quality and flexibility emerge:

  • Entry requirements help ensure that VET teachers hold the necessary skills and knowledge, and these requirements need to be transparent and clear. At the same time, flexibility is needed, so that individuals with relevant skills and knowledge can enter the profession even when they do not (yet) fulfil all requirements.

  • Prospective or new VET teachers need to be able to enrol in high-quality ITET that allows them to develop the right set of skills. These ITET opportunities need to be easy to access, and should therefore be organised in a flexible way and coupled with targeted financial support.

  • Allowing the providers of ITET for VET teachers to have a certain degree of autonomy over how they organise and deliver training can help ensure that the training fits the needs of their learners. Such autonomy should be supported by a solid quality assurance mechanism.

  • Coordination between VET institutions and teacher-training institutions contributes to a better design and delivery of VET teacher training. This includes partnering for the development of subject-specific skills and knowledge, as well as collaborating to provide opportunities for aspiring VET teachers to put their teaching skills into practice in a VET institution.

  • Equipping in-company trainers with pedagogical skills will support them in transferring their knowledge and skills and supporting the learning journey of the learner. Flexible pedagogical training and materials should therefore be made available, and when such training is optional incentives need to be provided to encourage trainers and their employers to take up the training. Moreover, training should be provided on all relevant aspects of in-company training - from the start to completion of work-based learning.

  • Regulations on the quality of work-based learning can also foster the quality of the trainers. Such regulations takes a more holistic approach to achieving high-quality training at the workplace, while possibly also allowing for more flexibility than when strict qualification or skills requirements are imposed on in-company trainers.

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