There is a growing global acknowledgement that employer driven Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a vital ingredient for global economic and social development.

It is also widely accepted that skills have a key role in helping all parts of our communities to meet the global challenges presented by urbanisation, globalisation, digitisation and environmental changes. TVET is increasingly viewed by governments and NGOs as a critical tool for the twinned objectives of productivity enhancement and poverty reduction.

To take a couple of examples; The Chinese Government’s Action Plan for Tertiary Vocational Education (2015-2018) references the need for; a strong focus on priority sectors, the transformation of traditional HE models towards applied technical approaches, closer links between industry and education and the importance of brining decision making closer to the point of delivery.

Similarly, international development agencies are launching programmes that support the development of ‘demand driven’ approaches to TVET delivery that maximise employers’ input into qualifications and curriculum (DfID).

The value of impactful skills training

This global focus on the value of impactful skills training build on strong partnerships with employers doesn’t come as anything new for UK providers. It’s an approach that is in our sector’s DNA and as such represents a very real global opportunity for UK expertise to add value and make a significant contribution through international initiatives.

The opportunity this presents is clear but there remains the challenge of how actually to model and deliver ‘demand driven’ approaches to TVET in international markets. The methodologies followed by UK providers are often predetermined by the national context in which we work, meaning it isn’t always easy or indeed appropriate to simply transfer UK models to international contexts.

However, by breaking down a UK approach into defined ‘services’ or areas of engagement, it is possible to shape an international offer that adds significant value to our partners’ training ambitions and strategies.

Some (but certainly not all) of the key services that UK providers are well placed to offer in the context of promoting employer engaged TVET would include:

  • Leadership and Governance
  • Dual professionalism
  • Apprenticeships and Work based learning

Leadership and Governance

A key constituent part of a demand driven approach to TVET is provided by strong and autonomous sector leadership. Strong leadership allows the devolution of decision making to the point of delivery and supports a more responsive and meaningful approach to employers’ demands.

The UK has a strong network of skills sector leaders at different levels of organisations who are well versed in the challenges of managing autonomous institutions within a national ‘system’. This implies that there is significant opportunity and demand for UK leaders to share their expertise with global partners.

There is the possibility to contribute to leadership exchange programmes and initiatives that have been run with a number of international partners, including the British Council, or through applying for local or international funding alongside global partners.

This exchange activity provides an excellent springboard for further international opportunities through the institutional and regional networks it helps to develop.

Dual professionalism

There is also a growing global emphasis being placed on the importance of attracting skilled technicians from industry into the training sector, alongside supporting employers to develop up to date pedagogic and assessment skills.

This will help to create a cohort of pedagogically confident and technically expert dual professionals in both the classroom and industry. The development of dual professionalism represents a significant international opportunity for UK providers.

Our sector is well placed to train industry based trainers and assessors to ensure they are meeting global standards in the delivery and assessment of programmes.

We are also well placed to deliver bespoke CPD training programmes that support the training of TVET lecturers on institutional, regional or national levels. These programmes can be supported by a suite of recognised UK trainer and assessor qualifications and standards.

Apprenticeship programmes

There is a significant global acknowledgement of the value of directly engaging employers in the delivery of training through work based learning programmes and apprenticeships, which represents a significant opportunity for our FE sector.

Although, as in other areas, there is a challenge in translating apprenticeships into tangible programmes for international partners which can make it appear a daunting area to develop globally.

However, this would be a missed opportunity; we have real expertise in developing programmes that enable a variety of learning opportunities in the workplace whilst providing benefits for employers.

We have a framework of qualifications that can be developed to accredit standard programmes and mapped to the work element of apprenticeships, the delivery and accreditation of these qualifications in itself represent an opportunity for Awarding Bodies.

The utilisation of mandatory and optional units allows UK providers to adapt certificated programmes to international partners’ needs. This flexible model also facilitates UK input into institutional and national initiatives.

Our sector is immensely confident in working with employers to help identify the knowledge or soft skills they require for specific roles and in supporting the skills they need to manage workplace assessment and mentoring.

We can also the support the development of the assessment skills required in accrediting work based learning as part of wider TVET qualifications and programmes. This capacity building element for employers and TVET providers also represents an opportunity for UK providers.

The flexibility of the tools that we have available also allows us to adapt our programmes to different study periods (including pilot projects) and industrial contexts. We can also develop and deliver work based learning that can be certificated, recognised and mapped against national and international frameworks.

This is an extremely attractive model and one that is well placed to take advantage of the global interest in developing apprenticeship programmes.

I strongly believe that the UK TVET offer makes our sector uniquely well placed to make a significant contribution to supporting the global shift towards ‘demand driven’ approaches to training. We have autonomous providers, well versed in the leadership skills required to deliver effective devolved training.

We have flexible qualifications that can be utilised to capacity build CPD programmes and provide the framework for apprenticeships and work based learning initiatives. This is delivered through a multi-partner system that can be adapted to specific opportunities.

Finally, we have an entrepreneurial and go getting sectorial attitude that will allow us to step up and take advantage of the opportunity afforded by global TVET trends.

John Mountford is an international skills sector expert with extensive experience of leading global and EU projects and programmes.

About John Mountford: An independent consultant specialising in the development of sustainable international programmes and initiatives. He works extensively with UK TVET providers in developing the sector’s international capacity. This includes advising on; strategic development, approaches to market, product development and delivery models. Contact him via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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