Most TVET educators and agencies have been complaining for years that TVET is often the last resort in education for many students.
A number of them would rather wait out another year if they don’t pass the examination for universities than attend TVET institutions.
The societal image of TVET is terrible. Meanwhile, the universities are full and graduating scores of students for which the labor market has no use. Employers are complaining they cannot get the skilled workforce they need and yet in many countries, the TVET institutions sit largely empty or quietly offer pre-university language and business programs.
Provision is there to take in more skills oriented learners. Most of the interventions have been made and continue to be made to improve the general TVET provision often funded by massive loans from the International Financial Institutions (World Bank, Asian Development Bank,) Equipment and facilities as well as curriculum have received significant upgrades in most countries and Governments have emphasized the importance of more skills in the workforce.
Many of these efforts, however, have been designed by consultants or a team that goes to the country for a few months and some don’t even bother to get out of the Team Office and go around the country to gather information.
Occasionally, the host government will not allow visiting especially if it is poorly disguised tourism. But more often the consultants just don’t have the desire to get out, being happy with meetings with government staff.
They base their design on whatever available information there is which is often almost nil in many of these countries or is inaccurate and misleading.
From observation, many of these interventions have not been successful and institutions are left with inappropriate equipment and facilities which once broken, are left in a corner because nobody knows how to fix it or they don’t have the budget to get replacements for parts.
What must TVET institutions do then to earn more respect and use of their capacity?
Start with these:
- Get a profile of the students you have right now. Why are they there in your institution? What are their needs, their values, their socio-economic circumstances? What are their problems? What obstacles are there to their success? Make sure you include their parents feelings about TVET as well.
- Get a profile of your labour market. What companies are hiring in your area? What needs do they have? Which of these needs are more urgent? What problems are they encountering right now? What are their future plans?
- Talk to your local companies. What do they want. If your graduates do not get jobs, you have failed!
- Review your capabilities. Which ones respond best to the client profile you have identified of your two groups, your current students and the labour market. Is their a fit? If there is, how can this be enhanced? If there is none, how can you develop a fit?
- Design your training to respond best to these clients. Start with very simple and doable design and implement or pilot test it. Learn from the experience and refocus training towards success. Once you have your initial success, you’ll be encouraged to try out more.
The good news is several countries have been successful when they listened to what students and parents wanted. TESDA in the Philippines has now a client base that not only sustains their provision but challenges it as well as the clients demand more advanced skills to move up in their jobs. At the same time, those at the poverty level still continue to get skills to participate more actively in the economy.
Even in more developed economies, technical colleges have really gone into detailed study of their clients to find out what they need and how these institutions can best respond. The labour market has its needs as well as your students and it is your responsibility to make sure these meet.
For TVET, marketing is not about massive national campaigns. It is almost always based on individual institutions doing their homework with local communities (students,parents) and local industry.