From education to employment

International research enquires into the state of vocational training

A new Institute is conducting research across nine different countries to build up a global picture of some of the major issues and themes affecting vocational education today.

City & Guilds, in consultation with members of the vocational education and training (VET) community is sponsoring the establishment of a new research and development initiative, the City & Guilds Institute, which hopes to act as an information point for the FE community.

The research is still in the project phase, with a team of focus groups conducting surveys across Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, India, Malaysia, South Africa and the UK. Major stakeholder groups, practitioners, employers, policy makers and the research community are being consulted using a range of different methods and one-to-one interviews to explore specific themes.

“What has been interesting in the early stages is getting employer engagement, understanding what their needs are and generating skills in their workforce,” Keith Brooker, Director of the City & Guilds Institute explained to fenews. “We”re working with the educational community to get those demands addressed. The second thing, which is far more widespread, is the cultural issue surrounding vocational education and training and the regard that is given to vocational learning.”

The team picked as many geographical regions and methods as possible, with a particular interest in Germany’s strong vocational tradition, Hungary’s communist background, India’s growing economy and countries with large states like Australia and Canada.

“Germany is usually associated with mobility of labour, but esteem for vocational learning seems to be waning a bit,” said Mr Brooker, explaining how the German economy had turned from being predominantly industrially focussed to being more of a mixed economy. “Hungary is grappling with the move to a market economy in a post-Soviet economy and culture and vocational education seems to be less well regarded now.”

Once this first stage is completed, the survey will move onto the quantitative stage where the results of about 1,000 respondents across the countries will be gathered and assessed.

The results so far, which seem to suggest that vocational learning is struggling to find a parity of esteem, have been surprising. “The UK is not quite as unique as we think it is, which wasn”t what we expected to find,” said Mr Brooker. “We expected this to be a very English thing, but it happens to be far more widespread than we anticipated. It’s knocked our expectations on the head – how can we improve this?”

Once the Institute launches in the first quarter of 2008 after a report in October, the team will start delivering projects and strengthening partnerships internationally. The research will be accessible to everyone and there will be direct benefits for a huge number of organisations who may be interested in commissioning and funding research.

“We expect the Institute to take a role in improving the esteem in which vocational learning is held and to improve best practises and policies, which is prerequisite to getting a better understanding of what vocational learning is all about,” added Mr Brooker. “Our audience is the public in general, so we”ve got a big job raising awareness before we get there”.

Sound careers advice was also essential to inform youngsters about the full range of options available to them, he said. “Young people and adults need to be able to access good quality, independent, accessible advice and guidance so they can make better choices,” he continued.

“50 per cent of the youngsters in this country don”t go to university, and good information isn”t often readily available to them. In India there’s a strong cultural drive to be seen to be educated; who you are in society and your marriage prospects can be driven by the way people see you through your education. Success is very possible through a good vocational route, but changing cultures is a much longer haul. We want to be one of the catalysts that makes it all possible”.

Annabel Hardy

Related Articles