The right education helps students prepare for their future professional lives.
Learn more about Vocational Education and Training, understand its advantages and challenges and browse tips on how to open a leading training center:
What is vocational education?
Vocational education is a different learning option from the path of college or universities. It offers a path that imparts the skills and knowledge needed to work in a given occupation. It is coordinated with the requirements of the labor market and is an integral part of the education system.
Vocational Training vs Academic Training
While college education often provides theoretical or broad knowledge that could be applied to a variety of professions within a certain field, students learn via vocational training the precise skills and knowledge provides direct knowledge and application for a specific field or position.
College education often includes courses on a variety of subjects that may not directly relate to a student’s major and that a graduate may not use in their career. Vocational school, on the other hand, skips this type of broad academic study and instead provides direct knowledge and instruction for a specific field or position.
The vocational type of education is designed to make students “work ready” upon graduation. It provides significant practical education in a professional environment students will get accustomed to, so they develop specific industry skills that allow them to jump right into your profession and get started.
Vocational Training Settings
The vocational training system includes a variety of settings like apprenticeships or vocational schools for students to carry out their education.
While it is not yet common, some colleges and universities are beginning to incorporate vocational programs into their educational offerings in addition to their traditional academic options.
Students shall complete their vocational training with a certification or a diploma. In some cases, they may receive an associate’s degree. Some schools offer a range of professional areas, while some are specific to certain subjects, such as culinary schools or technology schools.
Vocational training also helps people move forward in their careers. These programs are often shorter and more flexible than college or university programs. This makes it easier for people to go back to school or take continuing education to help them move to the next step. Through further education with vocational training, one could have the opportunity to:
- Advance to a higher level position in the same company or field
- Gain the skills and knowledge needed to change careers
- Ask for higher pay to fit a credential or specialty skill
Key features of vocational education and training
Vocational training has some key features that set it apart from academic education because it focuses on practical experience instead through hands-on training.
1. It makes a student job-ready
Vocational training provides skill based learning and focuses on how to transfer practical skills. This means that upon completion of the program a student has gained the necessary knowledge and hands-on skills needed to perform specific tasks of an occupation.
2. It is based on competency
Student performance is based on competence that is defined by meeting certain criteria. By the end of the vocational program, a student must demonstrate satisfactory performance on each of these criteria to be considered competent in their chosen profession.
Each vocational training program features units of competency. These focus on skills and knowledge a person needs to have for this occupation. The program includes a certain set of units of competency that the student needs to master. This varies by the trade, craft or technical program.
READ: Things you didn’t know about vocational education & training
Pros and cons of vocational education
The academic vs vocational debate touches many students preparing for their careers. While both of these types of schools can offer an excellent education and prepare students for their jobs, they offer a slightly different approach to learning and coursework.
Advantages of vocational education training
Pursuing a vocational education option can open numerous doors for students. They have the opportunity to learn a specific trade that will allow them to build an exciting career in a new field.
The focus on practical skills
Practical learning vs theoretical learning should be a priority for those evaluating schools. Students in vocational schools spend significantly more time learning practical and tangible skills that they will need for the workplace. They are more prepared to begin their jobs immediately.
An education that prepares students for the global stage
Vocational schools attract students with a variety of different life experiences. Students have the chance to attend courses and work closely with classmates from different ethnic, cultural, and economic backgrounds.
Students graduate with intimate experience of working cross-culturally, a better understanding of communicating with people from different backgrounds, and the insight they need to thrive in jobs around the world. In other words, they become assets to their organizations in the globalized world.
Building better relationships with classmates and professors
The schooling experience differs when it comes to the vocational education experience. Students spend significantly more time in their physical classes and less time working on outside projects. Students work together closely with their classmates and form relationships with teachers as they move through the program. This can help students set up better networking experiences and a mentorship.
Students in vocational jobs enter their career paths because they have the chance to pursue their passion or a career that interests them. When they get to school, they find that they can spend significant hours every week engaged directly with this area of interest for them. This encourages interest in the courses and creates an excellent learning environment for students.
Vocational Courses are intended to support non-conventional students who wish to study while balancing other obligations. Options such as online learning, evening, night weekend make this alternative beneficial for those trying to develop new career expertise while working full-time.
Economic benefits of vocational education
Students entering vocational programs also find that they experience a variety of different economic benefits from choosing this educational path.
They often have an easier time finding a job
When students graduate from a vocational program, they have work experience and precise training for their exact field. In other words, their prospective employer knows that this candidate has gone through specialized learning and practice in the field and is prepared to start working in the new position right away with minimal training.
Students often can finish school faster
Many vocational based programs can be finished faster than the training and education programs provided for other paths. With less time spent in school, students get to make the transition from spending money for learning and training opportunities to making money in their careers faster. This helps to create net benefits for them from a financial standpoint.
Schools in the vocational sector often cost less than other types of learning institutions
Many students also find that vocational schools have a lower price on a year to year basis. Tuition and other fees that go into learning this field do not run as high as they do at other types of schools. This contributes further to the financial savings experienced by students during their education.
Challenges facing vocational education
Although the benefits for students entering vocational educational programs are many, there are a few challenges of vocational education that those entering a related field should be aware of.
Less of an opportunity to explore different subjects
In a traditional academic school program, students have opportunities to explore different subjects and disciplines outside their core topics for their future degrees. In a vocational setting, however, the subjects that students study revolve around their core concentration. While they may take some closely related tangential courses, they have fewer opportunities to take classes well outside their disciple.
Employers who focus on vocational students might be less able to adapt
Some organizations have encountered struggles when it comes to adapting with students who were educated in largely vocational settings.
Best education practices in the world: The Swiss dual education system
While the dual education model is used with success in many other countries, we can take a look at the Swiss apprenticeship system as an ideal example of this educational system. People, organizations and countries take note of the Swiss system around the world, and it has shown its value in comparison to the education systems of other countries. A Harvard-backed study considered it the “gold standard” internationally. Also, this education system has come in first place for years in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report. Further, the SwissSkills national professional team was 2016 European Champion and has achieved other high international championship rankings.
In Switzerland, students learn about apprenticships and start them when they are still young. They begin the process in about fourth grade and most start apprenticeships by the age of 15 and then have skills for work by high school graduation. Switzerland has great high school graduation rates, with almost all students (97 percent) finishing high school, and low youth unemployment rates at about eight percent.
In the Swiss apprenticeship system, the majority of vocational training programs have two tracks to include both classroom and practical training. During every school week, these programs tend to include the hands-on apprenticeship part for three to four days per week and classroom training for the rest of the time. Swiss vocational programs last two to four years. They vary by the chosen program. Training is adjusted to fit needed skills and jobs within the chosen field at any given time, so it helps students prepare for the jobs that are available.
Vocational programs are very common and popular in Switzerland. There are about 250 programs students can choose from in upper secondary school, and about two-thirds of Swiss youth enter vocational training. There are benefits to apprentices, who are able to transition from the apprenticeship to a job or to a professional college or university. Companies also benefit, as they receive a full return on investment for the cost of each apprenticeship and the program has a 50 to 80 percent retention rate.
An argument against this type of program is that students at young ages are not always ready to make educational path choices that impact the rest of their lives. But Switzerland takes this into account. This system is unique because it allows students to change their educational path if they decide to do so. You would have different options available to you in this system. After completing the apprenticeship program, you can continue with advanced training in your area of focus or you can continue your education through universities of applied sciences or other Swiss universities.
The Swiss apprenticeship system is an example of how well dual training can work for students and a society. When determining their educational path and career choices, students should have the dual track education system in mind. It offers a combination of academic and on-the-job training while removing school debt and providing pay for the apprenticeship.
READ: Swiss vocational education and training model: the recipe for success?
Importance of vocational training for career development
When it comes to finding a job and encouraging emerging professionals to excel in their new career path, making sure that graduates have the skills they need for the position plays an essential role.
Vocational education and training, allows students to gain practical experience in their chosen career path before they even graduate. Students who finish these rigorous programs have the credentials and training they need to get started right away in their chosen career path.
Skill development and employability
Vocational learning opportunities play a critical role in skill development and employability. The importance of vocational development can largely be summed up as the difference between theoretical knowledge vs. practical skills. In non-vocational studies, students have significantly fewer opportunities to actually put their acquired knowledge to work compared to students going through a vocational education situation. However, for students in a vocational education setting, this situation gets corrected. Students spend hours in the classroom each week learning hands-on practical skills related to their chosen field. They do not focus as much time on researching the theoretical as learning the practical.
The value of graduating with work skills
When employers look for new employees to join their institution, they know that they want to find someone who has the skills to do the job well and can adapt quickly to the work environment.
Vocational schools help with bridging the skills gap between work and education. Students have specifically worked in practical situations throughout their education under the supervision of their professors. This creates a more favorable employability skills assessment.
Finding a job following graduation
Many graduates struggle to find employment immediately following graduation. Students who have graduated from a vocational training school have the experience to list on their resume and employers know they have a significant portion of the training they need. This helps to open doors to new possibilities.
Building strong networks for students before graduating
In nearly any industry, the importance of a strong network can play a direct role in finding a job and building a successful career. Connections and relationships can help people find new jobs, learn about new opportunities, and have chances to continue their education and build more career-based skills.
Through a vocation-based education, students have an excellent opportunity to build a strong network that will enhance their learning experience and the rest of their professional careers. This type of classroom experience helps those learning in a vocational training program develop a strong professional network that will benefit them throughout their entire professional career. They will have people who can provide them with insight and guidance as they build a career and find the jobs they want.
Students experience economic benefits
Students who go through vocation-based schooling also have the chance to receive a variety of different economic benefits from their education.
Most importantly, they often do not have to spend as much on their schooling while still receiving an education that prepares them exceptionally well for their field. Vocational schools often have fewer years required to earn the degree of certification and often cost less in tuition each year as well.
Additionally, students who graduate from specialized programs like this can enter their career path faster. Employers know that they already have work experience and training related to their field, which makes it easier to transition into the desired role and takes less of a toll on the business working to onboard them.
READ: How to find creative solutions for training in hotel & restaurant?
How to set up a vocational training center?
Starting a vocational school can appear as a long process however, not necessarily a difficult one if all is well-prepared.
The objectives of the learning center should be to work towards the student’s achievement and growth, as a professional and as an individual. This should allow the school to develop its criteria and evolve into an institution of credible and verified reputation.
READ: Vocational Training Centers can be a prosperous investment
Here are a number of things to consider when starting a vocational training school or planning the future of this center.
1. Demand analysis and industry requirements
First, it is important to understand the need of skilled and trained manpower required by the local industry and the rate at which the local hospitality and related industry is growing. An understanding of the local education providers and their positioning is also essential.
2. Assessment of requirements
Once the demand and industry analysis is complete, an assessment of requirements needs to be done in terms of facility, location, and staff. The location in terms of the city and its connection with the industry is of prime importance.
3. Capacity Analysis and the size of the Center
How big and elaborate the size of a Center will depend on the number of students that can be mobilized over a period of 5-years. It will also depend on the types and number of Vocational courses that can be offered in relation to the industry requirement and interests of the community that will use the center.
4. Funding and Financial Implications
Every owner needs to understand the source and cost of funds in order to calculate the ROI of the learning center. It is essential to relate the ROI to the projected demand and the ability of the prospective students to pay the fees. Vocational programs may also be able to attract cheaper funds or even grants from the local government agencies who would be keen to skill their population and make them employable.
5. Marketing Services
Marketing is an essential part in the daily operations of a Training Center and will include a proper plan of action to successfully run the training center. Marketing activities include:
- recruitment marketing best-practice training,
- creation of ready-to-launch school website & lead generation platform,
- marketing audit and recruitment acceleration,
- marketing collateral design, etc.
6. Human Resources
The success of a Training Center is in large part defined by the faculty who conduct the theory and practical classes. Qualifications and credentials of the manpower are extremely important to the successful running of the center.
Most branded and high-quality Vocational and Education Training programs require trainers to be well-trained and be subject-matter experts.
In parallel, designing the facilities and labs as well as working on the list of equipment are important requirements. It must comply with governmental regulations or institutional partner standards.
8. Placements of the students/Student Services
The Final responsibility of the training center is the placement of the students for the In-service training and subsequently in a job post completion of their course. Some government funding access becomes easy when there is an assurance from the industry for post certification placements.
Most institutes would have separate Admissions and Placements departments to facilitate a common linkage in both the processes.
9. Operationalizing of the Center
A Center needs to have completed all the activities before announcing the opening dates for the Center. Finalizing the checklist for opening will imply that all facilities, classrooms and labs are in place together with the recruitment of human resources.
10. Maintaining the quality of Industry standards
It is strongly recommended for a training center to operate a student service center. To maintain the industry standards and to stay relevant in the dynamic world a training center needs to conduct:
- annual audits,
- curriculum review,
- retrain its faculty,
- keep the center self-sustainable.
Partnering with a vocational education expert: Why having a partner is cost saving?
Energy and time are ones of the biggest costs for businesses, and failing to find the right plan to meet the needs of your business can prove to be a costly mistake. Partnering with a comprehensive education supplier can help the learning center to find ways to reduce its costs and manage better its resources.
READ: VET by EHL: a new turnkey programme for the hospitality industry