Industry expects TVET graduates to have both a theoretical knowledge of the technology they are studying and job skills to apply their learning in the workplace.
As few teachers have any industrial, hands-on skills, most students can meet only half of the requirement when they graduate.
To overcome this deficit, in-industry, on-the-job, work release, dual and cooperative training for students has been instigated where industry/education partnerships are possible. This, however, is not the rule.
Most TVET teachers in developing countries have not worked in the industry for which they are preparing graduates. They complete University and then take teacher training or integrate technology education with teacher education.
The product of this system is graduates with little preparation for working with industry and with little understanding of the Industrial work environment. As a consequence, industry is critical of school preparation and graduates are disenchanted with their employment.
It is also true that teachers who graduated in engineering more than 10 years in the past are rapidly being outdated by changes in technology available to the workplace.
This suggests very clear orientation for any long term teacher training (in-service) programs and a very definite priority for mandatory full semester on-the-job placements for students.
Xu Ying, representing China at the UNEVOC TVET Conference in Hanoi, 2014 said, “Providing for trainers has always proven to be a bottleneck for vocational education reform. Most of the vocational education trainers are divided into theoretical trainers, and practical trainers.”
Generally speaking, theoretical trainers know nothing about practical training, while the practical trainers lack training in methodology and psychology.
Although vocational education reform was implemented more than 20 years ago (in China) and further training for trainers has been carried out for several years, it is still impossible to change and improve the qualification of trainers in a short time.
To improve the effectiveness of teaching in TVET at below the Engineering level, there are 2 strategies:
- (i) improve salaries so that only teachers with recent industrial experience are hired and then given basic pedagogical training, or
- (ii) put in place mandatory on-the-job training for all TVET students of at least one semester (3 months) each year.
What the students cannot learn in school, they can learn on the job. This second option will also help the school to work transition which is so difficult for many graduates.
The development of an Apprenticeship system would be helpful with the basic trades. This is, however, a challenge for many TVET educators in areas where there is hardly any skilled tradesmen.
Attempting to upgrade existing teachers may affect their knowledge of theory and their teaching skills, but it is not effective in helping students prepare for employment or find jobs.
I was involved once in teacher upgrading project where we trained teachers from developing countries for at least 3 months in the College and those who got the skills found better employment in industry when they got home.
Given their new skills, industry immediately offered them better pay which Government cannot match. From this experience, we also learned that teachers in many developing countries have far less competence in many basic skills than students in many developed economies where even at home their skills are often learned and applied.
So there is work to be done to enhance readiness of TVET graduates in many developing countries. Maybe, some industry people can be enticed to come and teach in TVET institutions.
In Canada, when information technology was new, many Colleges hired industry experts to teach so students are assured the get the skills they paid for. Teachers were also encouraged to improve their skills to be able to meet student demands and expectations.