Career and Technical Education in APEC
From APEC HRDWG Wiki
Career and Technical Education prepares individuals for the world of work through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies in an occupational field. The terms "Career and Technical Education (CTE)" or "Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET)" continue to evolve and are in many ways interchangeable. Alternative names include vocational education, workforce education, technical education, or apprenticeship training. CTE is used in some economies to reflect an emphasis on careers and lifelong learning, while others refer to TVET, a more name that was adopted by the UNESCO-UNEVCO International Centre. CTE programs are generally organized by educational or workforce development agencies at the secondary and tertiary levels to provide students with a sequence of course work that builds foundational career knowledge and specific technical skills and can lead to an occupational degree or certification specialty.
Education and training around an occupation may include those activities that are more traditionally "hands on" in nature, such as machinists and plumbers to health or service sector jobs like nurses and business sales executives. CTE in some economies encompasses certain engineering and technology fields as well. The CTE pathway often requires enrollment in and mastery of academic subjects as a condition for graduation. However, in some economies the CTE program may be more narrowly defined and mainly focuses on developing an individual's technical skills.
Policymaker interest is high in identifying strategies for strengthening CTE/TVET. Many current CTE/TVET systems suffer from:
- low-quality and out-of-date instruction,
- fragmented instruction that fails to provide lifelong learning opportunities for career development and training, and
- lack of modern technology incorporated into students’ education and training.
APEC economies are increasingly looking for models, strategies, and CTE promising practices for improving their education and training systems to address both their current and long-term needs for well-trained workforces. But stellar examples exist along the Pacific Rim of high-quality career preparation and technical education and training systems that could be models for others of ways to strengthen CTE/TVET for effectively equipping students with the skills required for meeting the demands of a 21st Century Workforce.
21st Century Workforce Demands
In many occupations, the nature of work in the 21st century will be quite different from work in the prior century. This realization is moving all APEC Economies to provide high-quality education and training systems to prepare today's students for the workforce of tomorrow.
Three trends signal the increasing demand and rewards for those who bring special technical and workplace skills to the labour force as well as the reduced rewards for those who lack higher-level skills and are only able to perform routine work:
- Advances in information technologies enable the substitution of computers for routine work--such as grocery product readers, voice recognition answering machines, and robotics on assembly lines. Aided by computers, skilled workers can experience productivity benefits that turn into higher earnings.
- Globalization increases the importance of trade in the world economy which raises world productivity and earnings overall, but also creates world markets for labour in which those economies with the most productive workers gain a competitive advantage over economies and workers who are less productive.
- Workers with adaptable skills benefit as the days of one-industry employment for a lifetime are diminishing and the norm is for a person to have 8 to 12 jobs in different sectors over their life span.
Workers today need solid academic and technical skills, and those in demand will ideally have proficiency in 21st Century competencies, including the ability to think critically, problem solve, and communicate.
Occupational Standards and Certification
Occupational standards and certification can help guide any system of workforce preparation. They define the academic and occupationally-specific skills that prospective and current workers need for attaining different occupational qualification levels. Program content should be based on the occupational standards and certification requirements in a given field. To ensure mastery of these standards, an assessment system that can reliably and accurately measure a student's proficiency level on various skills and competencies is paramount. Three forms for the specification of standards and certificates are:
- Qualification frameworks that allow students and workers to certify their knowledge and skills along a continuum of levels in particular occupational areas through a combination of formal education, training, and work experience. Economies that employ qualification frameworks include Australia, New Zealand, and the non-APEC country Scotland.
- Career clusters that identify the knowledge and skills--both academic and technical--required to pursue career pathways within broad occupational areas. The U.S. is an economy electing to pursue 16 broad career clusters (known as the States’ Career Clusters Initiative (SCCI) rather than set of detailed occupation-specific standards.
- Occupational-specific standards that define the knowledge and skills needed for certification in different occupational areas. Industry standards may be established through industry group, government, or more typically, jointly.
CTE/TVET by Type of Provider
21st Century economies characterized by rapid technological change challenge providers to offer CTE/TVET that is up-to-date, relevant and yet sufficiently broad to enable learners to have career adaptability. Three important providers of CTE/TVET are:
- Secondary schools which may start career awareness in the lower secondary grades (7-9) and provide more specific occupational skills at the upper secondary level (grades 10-12). Balancing academic and technical skills is a particular secondary school challenge, as is creating a positive image for career and technical secondary education and schools. Singapore's Institute for Technical Education (ITE) is a Singapore Quality Harvard Innovation award-winning technical education provider at the upper secondary and beyond level serving the lowest 25 percent of achievers operating within a world-class academic education system. ITE has maintained a high 90% satisfaction rate from employers with the graduate employment rate for a five-month job search period also consistently at 90%.
- Two-year postsecondary education institutions serve as a bridge to work or more advanced postsecondary academic training. The U.S. community colleges are an excellent example of low-cost providers that integrate academic and technical training geared to local labour market conditions. They are also well-known for allowing more able attendees to continue on to a four-year collegiate education.
- Industry-based training is carried out by a particular industry or company. Industry training may cover general competencies in personal areas such as leadership or teamwork or academic competencies (for example, computer skills or data analyses). Specific skills are commonly covered relating to particular jobs, such as welding or invoice preparation. Apprenticeship programs are one historically common form of industry training where entry-level learners are trained and mentored on the job. Japan is an Economy that is a leader in industry-based training of all types, relying on enterprises rather than the formal education sector for a considerable amount of occupationally-specific training.
Critical Cross-Cutting CTE/TVET Issues
The effectiveness of CTE/TVET systems hinges upon their successfully addressing a number of critical cross-cutting issues:
- Implementing TVET programs amid the economic crisis
- Youth unemployment and related secondary school failure may require offering a combination of fundamental academic programs targeted to youth who do not do well academically along with career awareness and occupational training to provide essential employment skills. Vocational education and training for youth offer a hands-on approach targeted at motivation as well as education and training.
- Sustainable Career Development promotes education and skills throughout working life from youth though retirement--and beyond to post-retirement work.
- The vital role of Enterprises in human resource development is critical to CTE/TVET systems at all different stages of career progression. Enterprises are essential in providing guidance to ensure that education and training is relevant and aligned with employment opportunities as well as being a major source of skilled trainers.
- Regional economic development approaches career and technical training through identifying and then addressing regional human resource development needs. The U.S. WIRED initiative (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) incorporates education and training as an integral part of industrial development within a regional economic strategy.
- Online career education and vocational training offers a 21st Century strategy to provide expert courses that are equally accessible 24/7 in rural as well urban areas. Ensuring widespread use of this mode of education and training is an important policy issues.
- A high-quality CTE/TVET teacher workforce with regularly upgraded knowledge and skills in the teaching subject is essential to the transfer of relevant technical skills to students In addition, school systems may find that some CTE/TVET teachers are in short supply in areas where it is more lucrative to stay in the occupational field. Under-served areas are particularly susceptible to teacher shortages.
- Effective basic and secondary educational systems are often fundamental to the success of CTE/TVET activities for an economy. Education and Skills: Strategies for Accelerated Development in Asia and the Pacific, a recent report from the Asian Development Bank, discusses strategies for reforming the educational systems of developing members, linking progress in basic education, higher education, and TVET programs.