Marketing in TVET is built on the premise that institutions will identify the clients they wish (or are mandated) to serve and will determine the learning needs of these clients. To do this, the institution must ask the client directly what he wants, not ask academics or government what they think the client needs.
As an example, as employers are the market for graduates, the institution must ask employers what graduates must be able to do on the job to become effective employees. Knowing this, the institution can then design a learning program to meet the employers’ needs for skilled graduates and to meet students needs for a job. We find out what the market wants BEFORE we design the product. Once a service or product is designed to meet the clients needs, the next step is letting the client know that our service or product is available. This is advertising.
Traditionally, educational advertising by Government institutions has been the notification of the public by institutions of the availability of courses. Most has been visually unattractive and has communicated a message that has said “we really don’t want you and we will make it difficult for you to register even if we find you to be good enough for us”.
In the new demand driven, market centered environment of cost recovery, advertising of learning services and products must be quite different. Look at Private Sector Institution advertising for ideas.
TVET institutions are not presently seen as trainers of choice by industry. Interviews with industry and industrial associations at the regional and national level suggest that employers do not see real value in these institutions.
International experience suggests that changing employer attitude is a long-term activity. Nevertheless, ensuring that the primary market has a positive feeling about Training institutions is absolutely essential if TVET is to become a significant influence in economic development.
Here are some ways to engage employers in TVET
1. Do not offend the client
TVET Institutional leaders often attack industry on the basis that industry should be helping the institutions. Industry feels that through taxes it already supports Training institutions.
Equally, industry generally does not see why it should support the suppliers of workforce skills more than it supports other suppliers of inputs to industry, i.e. land, energy, capital equipment, materials inputs or transport.
Industry feels that supplying skilled labor is a supplier’s function and private sector trainers are responding to this demand by industry. Telling your client that he is not doing his job properly is not usually an effective marketing strategy.
2. Use direct interviews in plants and factories
Identify current bottle-necks, quality problems, equipment failures or management constraints that can be directly related to an absence of workforce skills.
Have the company or industry determine a cost to their bottom line of this problem. Propose a joint solution that solves the problem in the short run and the long run.
The core role of the Technical Training institution is to meet industries’ needs for skilled workers now and in the future. In doing this, the needs of students for jobs and the State for economic growth will be met.
If employers sense the commitment of the Technical Training institutions to their training needs, they will work with Training institutions. On this basis, the Training institutions can sell training as other suppliers sell their services or products to industry.
3. Focus on quality
Employers will be cautious, even suspicious of Government (even local government ) Training institutions. Experience has not been positive. The first training programs will be carefully watched.
Only use the very best trainers with the very best materials. Pick the best from inside the Institute or hire the best part-time trainer from industry.
If the first courses go well, the entire industry will respond. If the first courses are weak, the Training institution has lost its chance to engage its clients for another generation.
The best marketing is the quality of what you do. The best advertising is a delighted customer.
4. Work with the regional or national association
If possible bring in the Executive Director (CEO) of the association that represents the commodity that your client produces (cloth, leather, auto parts, computers).
As the course develops, suggest a regional or national marketing partnership. Being industry insiders, they can achieve what the institution can not achieve on its own.
Their involvement also suggests to the industry an assurance of quality and up-to-date technology.
5. Get local media coverage of your training partnership
Visibility in the press reassures the industry of the decision they have made and gives them a socially responsible image. It also gives the institution a marketing lever with other members of the same industry suggesting that their competition is moving ahead of them in technology application.
6. Make them part of the institution
Make them delighted to be part of the Training institution. The change in the institutional attitude will be broadcast quickly and will affect industry attitude towards the Training institution.
7. Finally, start by promoting small successes
Speak with industrial associations, employers’ groups, business clubs and chambers. Do not berate them or attempt to instruct them on what they as employers should do.
Rather, show them the institutions’ commitments to meeting their skills needs by giving real, measurable examples. Momentum will build.