Executive summary

Vocational education and training (VET) comes in many shapes and forms. It is delivered at various levels of education, covers different fields of study, and can be organised as entirely school-based or a combination of school- and work-based learning. VET generally has a more diverse student population than general education, including in terms of students’ age. As a result, the provider landscape in VET is diverse in many countries, with no single provider type welcoming students from all levels, fields, programme types and age groups.

This report looks at the provider landscape in Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden to describe the different VET provider types, how they are different and how they overlap, as well as structures and initiatives to foster coordination between them. These countries all have a sizeable VET sector, but differ substantially in how VET is designed and delivered. The provider landscape is distinct in each of these countries, but some key commonalities emerge:

  • All countries have both public and private VET providers, with the latter generally receiving public funds to deliver accredited programmes. Typically, public and private providers can deliver the same programmes for the same target audience. However, private providers are more likely to target certain fields or sectors and attract more adult learners.

  • In most countries, VET programmes at different levels of education are provided by different provider types. This is particularly the case for post-secondary programmes, which are usually provided by different institutions than VET programmes at lower levels.

  • Various countries have specialised VET provider types that focus on programmes in one or a limited set of education fields (e.g. agriculture, health). However, such specialised providers often co-exist with providers that deliver programmes in a broad range of fields, and in most cases those broader providers are not excluded from delivering programmes in the fields for which specialised providers exist.

  • Some countries have dedicated provider types for adult VET. In some cases, these are the only providers that can deliver VET to adult learners, while in other cases the dedicated adult VET providers share the responsibility with providers that cater to both young students and adult learners.

  • In countries where VET can be organised as a school-based track and apprenticeship track, these separate tracks are sometimes delivered in different institutions.

The five case studies show that there are many different ways for countries to organise their VET system. There is not one ideal system, and how the provider landscape is structured depends strongly on the role and design of VET. Moreover, differences between countries also reflect broader factors, with liberal market economies often having a larger private provider market and giving more freedom to providers on what types of programmes to deliver and their target audience.

What is clear from the case studies is that not one single system has a VET provider landscape without overlaps between the different providers in terms of programmes or target audience. The overlap is larger in some countries than in others, with some having limited differentiation between providers (often in an effort to create a competitive market), and others having a relatively segmented provider landscape that has overlaps only in a few fields or programme types. However, all systems require coordination efforts and tools to make the system easy to navigate for learners, employers and other stakeholders. Overlapping provision is not necessarily an issue and may even foster innovation and quality when there is healthy competition between providers, but the system needs to remain transparent. Moreover, strong quality assurance mechanisms, as well as standards that underpin training programmes, contribute to bringing consistency in VET provision. Formal co-ordination bodies and knowledge sharing platforms can encourage and facilitate information exchange and improve coherency.

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This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Member countries of the OECD.

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