02 SES 14 C, Enhancing the Standing of Vocational Education and the Occupations It Serves
The standing of vocational education is often low, compared with other education sectors, albeit more so in some countries than others. The consequences of this standing can be profound. They include how governments, industry, enterprises and communities sponsor vocational education, and what constitutes its purposes, form and its administration. These perceptions also shape how individuals engage with it, parents advise about it and employers’ willingness to engage with its provisions. Overtime, also it has been the voices and sentiments of powerful others (e.g. aristocrats, theocrats, bureaucrats and academics) that have shaped the discourses about the standing of occupations and their preparation (Billett, 2014). In many instances, this privileging has and continues to come at a cost to the standing, processes of and goals for this important educational sector.
Indeed, governmental concerns in countries with advanced industrial economies about the development of technical skills and young people’s preference for university over VET are pertinent here. The UK is experiencing declining levels of participation in courses for advanced technical skills required for contemporary work (Wolf, 2016), and Germany is having difficulty securing adequate numbers of quality apprentices. This has led to competition amongst companies to secure such apprentices. South Korea has long struggled to attract young people to manufacturing work that sustains its economy (Cho & Apple, 1998). This issue is not restricted to schooling and entry-level occupational preparation. There are also growing concerns about low levels of adult competence in technologically-driven work, and engagement with continuing education and training, in many countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operational and Development, 2013). UNESCO and BiBB recently held a joint international symposium to address the issue of the low standing of vocational education and its economic consequences. An idea being proposed widely is to have apprentice degrees to enhance their status is but one response being mooted.
The proposed symposium aims to elaborate the sources of the low standing of vocational education and training (VET) and the occupations it serves (Billett 2014), and, importantly how this can be redressed. Recent Australian research identifies VET students’ preferences associated with gender, age and educational achievement) (Gore et al, in press). The symposia seeks to offer perspectives about the standing of vocational education from four countries (i.e. Denmark, Switzerland, Norway and Finland) with distinct systems to identify and inform policy interventions about promoting the standing and status of this important educational sector across these and other countries. The emphasis here is on identifying through what means might the standing of this form of education and conjointly, the occupation serves be enhanced. The symposia is informed by the following questions
How can vocational education’s standing be enhanced to secure greater participation and better educational outcomes for its graduates?
What shapes community members’ perceptions of vocational education and the occupations it serves?
What has to change to realise enhanced engagement by students and support from parents and employers?
The symposium comprises country perspectives (Denmark (Aakrog), Finland (Nokelainen), Norway (Hiim) and Switzerland (Stalder)), each outlining factors associated with the standing of vocational education and how it might be enhanced.
Billett, S. (2014). The standing of vocational education: Sources of its societal esteem and implications for its enactment. Journal of Vocational Education and Training,, 66 (1), 1-21. Cho, M. K., & Apple, M. (1998). Schooling, work and subjectivity. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19(3), pp269-291. Organisation for Economic Co-operational and Development. (2013). OECD skills outlook 2013: first results from the Survey of Adult Skills: OECD, Paris, France. Wolf, A. (2016). Remaking tertiary education: Can we create a system that is fair and fit for purpose. Retrieved from London:
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