Does your vocational school have what it takes to attract and engage today’s students?
The answer to this question may surprise you, especially when it comes to vocational education and training programs.
Vocational schools are attracting more students than ever before, but it’s a competitive education market. It's easy to prove that vocational programs offer a fast track with unique learning and career opportunities, but that doesn’t mean the students will choose your school or the vocational method over another. In this article, we’ll explore effective strategies to attract and engage learners in your specific vocational education programs and turn them into successful graduates and ambassadors for your brand.
Understanding student demand for Vocational Education and training
When it comes to vocational learners, it's important to understand their unique needs and expectations.
Here are some of the factors that attract students to vocational programs.
- They already have a career in mind: Unlike traditional academic students, vocational learners often seek hands-on training for a specific career path.
- They are looking for work-study options: The prospect of earning money while studying is a common benefit of vocational education and training (VET) programs.
- They like real-world experience: Hands-on learning attracts kinesthetic learners and others who want an education based on practical skills and real-world experience.
- They want to be specialists: Students who are motivated by specialized, in-demand career fields see vocational programs as a fast track and springboard to their goals.
- They seek accessibility and flexibility: A broad range of students are attracted to vocational training options because they are usually offered part-time and work-study options.
- Recognized qualifications: Lastly, these learners are motivated by tangible, career-related accolades, such as industry-recognized professional certifications and diplomas.
Overall, it’s important to keep these specific student interests in mind when promoting and structuring vocational education. By understanding the unique needs and expectations of vocational learners and the factors that drive enrollment in vocational education and training (VET) programs, you can better serve your students and help them achieve their career goals
The apprenticeship model for Vocational Education and training
VET programs are based on the Swiss Competency Framework - regarded as one of the best education models in the world. This system has proven its worth, giving Switzerland one of the world’s lowest youth unemployment rates and an excellent reputation for hospitality education.
As one of these programs, VET by EHL provides students with a practical and hands-on approach to learning hospitality skills. It allows students to gain experience in the industry and acquire a strong foundation of knowledge and skills to succeed in their careers.
The VET Apprenticeship Model offers an 80/20 split format in partnership with local hotel partners. Learners receive daily on-the-job training in addition to classroom-based theory 1 day per week. In just 18 months, students can earn a VET diploma in their area of specialization, such as a Culinary Professional Diploma, F&B Service Professional Diploma, or Hotel Professional Diploma.
A VET diploma also allows students to further their education with top-up programs. For example, after completing the two-year Vocational Education and Training by EHL program and obtaining the Diploma in Hotel Administration, Gabe Capuano is currently completing his Top-Up Bachelor year with a concierge internship at Le Roch Hôtel & Spa Paris.
Educational institutions can partner with VET by EHL to offer their students access to this program and attract more students to their hospitality programs.
Creating an attractive educational environment
Offering a positive and inclusive learning environment is crucial to meeting the needs and expectations of today’s discerning students.
The learning environment must promote a sense of well-being and belonging and encourage students to engage in their learning process.
When structuring promotional materials and marketing activities, it’s essential to highlight how your school’s particular approach creates an engaging, inclusive learning environment by focusing on:
- Teamwork and role-play activities are common in hospitality service courses because they encourage open communication and collaboration between students. This can also be done by promoting group activities and discussions to share ideas and perspectives.
- Vocational teachers bring real-world know-how to the classroom and act as role models for professional attitudes concerning cultural and generational differences. Specialized facilitator training is a good option for strengthening these skills in the faculty.
- Enhanced physical learning spaces: The physical classroom in vocational schools often mirrors a professional work environment. It can be elevated by including colorful signage, visually engaging materials, and dynamic seating/standing options for different learning styles.
- A virtual learning environment can enhance the practical learning experience by adding interactive tools and multimedia resources. Schools should prioritize creating a user-friendly interface that allows students to easily navigate through the learning materials.Additionally, teachers and staff can use social media platforms to promote communication and collaboration among students.
Implementing innovative teaching methods
Today’s modern vocational students are looking for learning that links to personal and professional development. To engage learners in vocational programs, education providers must implement innovative teaching methods and best practices.
Offering personalized learning experiences, using gamification to make learning fun, and encouraging collaboration among students are techniques that generate higher levels of engagement. And engaged students are more likely to enroll in programs, complete them successfully, and become ambassadors for the institution.
When it comes to integrating technology, there are many options available to vocational education providers. For example, virtual reality can be used to simulate real-world scenarios in a safe and controlled environment, while online platforms can provide access to resources and tools that would otherwise be unavailable.
Technology can also be used in conjunction with hands-on learning to enhance the learning experience. For example, Vocational Education & Training by EHL (VET by EHL) sets schools up with ready-to-use hospitality programs that combine hands-on courses with blended learning courses that take place in the classroom and online. By combining technology with this hands-on learning, these programs can create a powerful and effective learning experience that properly engages vocational learners.
Training teachers to be facilitators
One thing that makes vocational education different from academic programs is the way students learn. Traditional methods of teaching aren't very well adapted to a professional training curriculum. This is where facilitated training is needed.
Facilitated training is a teaching method where a facilitator guides the learning process. The facilitator's role is to create an environment where learners can comfortably experiment, engage in discussions, ask questions, and collaborate with their peers to problem-solve and learn new skills.
Facilitated training is particularly effective for vocational learners who need hands-on, reality-based learning approaches to prepare them for the real world of work. By tapping into this thirst for applicable knowledge, the facilitator helps learners understand how new trends and tools fit into the existing structure of the industry and how they can integrate new concepts in a practical setting.
Traditional teachers and professionals can be upskilled in this method quite easily with programs like “Train the Trainer”. The VET by EHL model requires institutions to employ professionals from the industry at each licensed center, and these trainers must undergo the EHL-delivered Train the Trainer Program to become a VET by EHL Certified Facilitator. If you want to learn more about this type of facilitator training, you can check out this helpful resource on EHL’s Education Consulting site, which explains what facilitated training is, how it works, and why it is an effective teaching method.
Offering personalized learning and support
Tailored learning experiences are essential for retaining today’s students as they cater to the unique needs and learning styles of individuals. When the learning experience is customized to cater to the individual's needs, it can greatly enhance their knowledge retention, engagement, and overall satisfaction.
The VET model meets this need by offering students learning options based on flexible working schedules where they are paid for their work and the education fees are subsidized by the employer. VET programs offer two models, allowing students and schools to choose between a 50/50 or an 80/20 ratio of classroom-based learning to on-the-job training.
To boost student engagement, and ensure their success, it is also important to offer sufficient mentoring, counseling, and support services.
- Mentoring is a form of support that provides guidance, feedback, and advice to individuals based on their personal and professional growth goals. This can help learners to improve their skills and achieve their goals with the help of an experienced mentor.
- Counseling services provide emotional and psychological support to individuals going through personal or professional difficulties. It can help them to manage stress and anxiety, gain clarity, and make better decisions.
- Support services can come in various forms, such as technical support, academic support, or financial support. These services can help individuals overcome obstacles that may hinder their learning progress and enable them to achieve their desired outcomes.
Highlighting career development and employability
Career prospects and employability are major points of attraction for learners who prefer a vocational education. There are two key factors to highlight:
Opportunities to make money while learning
Many students are looking for ways to finance their education, and providing them with part-time jobs or internships in the industry can be an excellent incentive to enroll in vocational programs.
For instance, educational institutions can collaborate with hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality organizations to provide students with apprenticeship programs that allow them to gain practical experience while studying. They must also make internships a required part of the program, to ensure these students gain enough real-world experience to be successful professionals from graduation.
The right skills and connections for the job market
It’s also essential to incorporate the industry into the program with workshops, seminars, and guest speakers from the field. This exposure helps students learn about different career paths and gain insight into the skills needed to succeed in those fields.
Including career-related assignments in the coursework, such as case studies, consulting projects, or research papers, is another way to immerse the learner in their future work.
Lastly, providing career-building resources such as job search tools, resume workshops, and career counseling services can also be beneficial for students.
With the launch of VET by EHL Programs at BISHT (Renamed WISE), we aim to improve the employability of youth in Bhutan and help them achieve befitting career options in the hospitality sector within the country and overseas. We are providing a Swiss benchmark course in the country without the hassle of students traveling elsewhere to get the Certification. The students are also exposed to a live working environment through the internship as part of their curriculum, allowing them to gain exceptional experience. BISHT provides support in employment opportunities for graduates.
Ms. Chencho Tshering, Chief Executive Officer of BISHT (Renamed WISE)
Boosting student engagement with extracurricular activities
Extracurricular activities play an important role in vocational education. They provide students with opportunities to develop skills and interests outside of their academic pursuits. The benefits of extracurricular activities in vocational education include the development of teamwork and leadership skills, improved communication and interpersonal skills, and increased confidence and self-esteem.
Clubs, competitions, and events also play a vital role in building a sense of community among vocational education students. They provide a platform for student engagement, helping them to connect and collaborate with their peers, and share their experiences and ideas. In addition, they offer opportunities for students to network with professionals in their field, and gain exposure to real-world scenarios.
Overall, extracurricular activities are an essential component of a well-rounded vocational education experience. They provide students with valuable opportunities to develop their skills, build their networks, and enhance their career prospects. The role of clubs, competitions, and events in building a sense of community among students cannot be overstated, as they foster a sense of belonging and encourage student engagement with their peers and mentors.
Creating a positive feedback loop
As a final step in the effort to improve student engagement in vocational education, it is important to establish a continuous assessment and feedback loop. Collecting data to measure students’ satisfaction, perceptions, and progress gives useful insights into problems and ultimately helps to improve their learning outcomes. It’s a key part of quality assurance and good governance for any institution. This can be done through surveys, quizzes, and focus groups. Institutions must use the feedback received to adapt and improve their teaching strategies, course content, and delivery methods.
In the case of VET by EHL partnerships, part of this process is already established. By leveraging the EHL Brand, education partners agree to align themselves with the quality of EHL’s Swiss academic rigor and professional training standards, to offer high-quality learning materials, environments, and experiences, and to maintain high education standards. This is accompanied by self-review processes to ensure adherence.
In conclusion, we can see that attracting and retaining students in vocational programs requires a multifaceted approach. It's essential to provide students with opportunities to earn money while learning, leverage an apprenticeship model like that of VET by EHL, and prioritize student inclusion, personalization, and implication in vocational education. By implementing these strategies, vocational institutions can attract and retain learners effectively and prepare them for successful careers.
If you would like to learn more about VET by EHL and see the success stories of our partner institutions, visit this page.