In ‘Skills Beyond School’, OECD Highlights Vocational Education

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A new report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggests that post-secondary vocational training in “under-recognized” in countries across Europe.

The report, Skills Beyond Schoolpublished earlier last week, compares the vocational training systems in 20 European countries.

The findings discuss the importance of work-based learning, suggesting that it become a mandatory part of all vocational education programs, referring to it as a “powerful tool” that helps students find work by developing relevant skills.  The qualifications needed to obtain these professional and technical jobs require no more than one to two years of training beyond high school.

Almost one quarter of the European workforce have the qualifications necessary for these technical positions, with almost 75% of overall employment growth in the European Union expected to be in the “technicians and associate professionals” sector.

The report looks at countries Romania to Sweden — a range of different systems and demographics – finding that countries who have successfully introduced work-based learning programs tend to have employer support and engagement within the program.

The authors suggest that the system in place in England would benefit from a “drastic simplification,” as the current system has “very serious drawbacks.”  It is also recommended that learning in the workplace should be the focus of the vocational education system in England in order to avoid increasing the gap between the skills learned in college and those that employers need.

“The proliferation of competing qualifications in England undermines the labour market value of vocational qualifications, and prevents employers from engaging effectively in the construction of qualifications,” it says.

The report also discusses the need to expand higher level vocational programs, suggesting that it would be beneficial for people with industry experience to become teachers for these programs.

Michael Davis, chief executive for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the company which fully supported and funded the report, said of it:

“The OECD’s findings are exceptionally strong, and we support the view that higher level vocational training must have a clear line of sight to a job. Employers must be as close as possible to training to ensure the skills people develop are the ones businesses need.”

The report was described by Simon Field, lead researcher for vocational education at the OECD, as “one of the broadest and most systematic studies of training and education systems internationally ever undertaken”.