Reinventing the Government Technical College

In many countries, government technical colleges and training institutions are restructuring to meet the demands of the new economy evolving faster than the rockets its building . The requirement is much more than simply adding an IT section or a new programme in automated manufacturing.

Technical college

In fact, the whole environment in which these institutions have worked is changing  and curriculum is just one component of these changes. Imagine the requirements when a college was first built. Well, even though the buildings are in place, it’s just like starting all over again.

Originally, many of these tech institutions were established to serve the needs of government and state-owned industry for semi-skilled workers. In the 1970s, many developing countries were buying world class communications systems building power generation behemoths that had no links at all to traditional agricultural technology. 

​In many cases, they became havens for students that could not gain entrance to local universities but had no interest in technology. They were backwaters that really did not fit into Ministries of Education, which were run by Academics with little idea of the world outside of graduate schools and government offices.

These shifts in public policy are leading to upheavals in every aspect of Technical College operations, from student services to marketing to curriculum to financing. Linking Colleges to the market for training and forcing them to become responsive institutions is a total change in direction.

The transition in response to shifts in public policy is one of the most complex evolutions that institutions can make. Needless to say, a clear strategy is required by government and the institutions if the redirection is not to end in demoralized and marginalized Colleges.

Leadership is everything. Where promotion is based on age and service, the odds of finding the kind of innovative and energetic institutional leaders now required are very long indeed.

Without very solid leadership at the Institution level, the technical Colleges remain bogged down in a skills supply system that is totally unresponsive to the needs of Industry and Business. They simply become burdens.

With little or no money to manage the shifts in skills needs  and a priority in the provision of basic education for exploding populations, not technical education, governments are often unclear on how to design  the transition. 

Even more a mystery is how to fund the new institutions once the changes have been made.  In fact, some International Financial Institution strategists have recommended that Government simply get out of the TVET business as it is beyond government funding and competence. 

Turn it over to private trainers or the Industrial sectors and stick with the school sector where there is more tolerance for the average.

As the rate of change in skills demands becomes ballistic, the focus shifts to the skills in the present workforce as there is no time to wait for the slow trickle of new graduates from the Colleges. How will archaic systems respond to a sudden demand by politicians for a “competitive workforce”?

There is always more than one pathway to reach a goal. There are models based on in-industry training or private institution education that work well and deserve attention. A visit to Chile will show an effective system that sidesteps Government completely.

India quietly depends on private trainer to set workable tuitions and training students to meet the standards required by the factories in the schools catchment area. Student tuition and generous donors carry much of the freight.

Beyond this of course is the idea that systems developed in one country can easily fit in countries with dramatically different predominant cultures.

How many of us have watched the attempts to transfer models from highly disciplined, technologically oriented countries to economies with totally different histories and challenges! Let’s be realistic. 

The world is a buffet of working models designed to be effective in the environments that grew them. We are learning to take the bits and pieces that might fit into our own environment and use those as influences on the transition, but to test out every idea to make sure it makes sense in the new environment.  

Systems are never static. Today, many TVET institutions are generally seen as evolving from a supply driven, academic activity to a demand driven and  responsive, competency based system. The following grid displays some of the characteristics that are seen as positive.

Most systems are on a journey moving towards the desired characteristics. Most have learned that before they buy into answers designed for other cultures and economies, to test out very carefully what industry wants and needs in the home country and avoid the PhD misadventures of Consultants.

A comparison of the current characteristics of TVET and the desired characteristics based on input from TESDA, ADB, RRP, and stakeholders

NoExisting CharacteristicsDesired Characteristics
1Dissatisfaction of TVET clients (enterprise and students) with the quality of TVET graduates from public institutions  Demand-driven/enterprise-based (TVET directed by enterprise and learners)
2Supply-driven/institution-based (TVET not directed by enterprise) A competency-based TVET system with required competencies and qualifications identified by enterprise
3A curriculum-based TVET system with content chosen primarily by educatorsA quality-based TVET system with enterprise satisfaction with the quality of graduates from all registered TVET institutions
4TVET not well supported by government, enterprise, or societyTVET supported as a cornerstone of economic growth and attracting talented students
5Focus of TVET authority on the management of TVET centers and schools TVET authority providing national leadership for a TVET system of TVET providers and industry training sites
6National HRD planning for technicians/skilled workers based on top-down direction, not bottom- up needs An HRD planning system based on a combination of national direction, enterprise needs, and learner interests
7Centrally directed selection of programs to be offered in TVET institutions Locally directed program offerings based on enterprise needs
8Greater focus of the system on poor young people, the unemployed, and out-of-school youth, although there has been marginal success in this areaFocus of the system on employer needs, the training of a full range of learners, and the meeting of anti-poverty requirements by providing training on real employment and self-employment
9TVET decision making centralized and inflexible, with little freedom to act at the local level; local (provincial) offices understaffed with competent people to be effective         TVET decision making decentralized and flexible to help respond to local markets for skills; provincial offices strengthened in numbers and trained to provide local leadership
10TVET system dependent on government funding and underfunded System/institutions generating revenue to cover some costs 
11Delivery in the province/institution structured around TVET managers roles, not “One Stop” (or one-stop shop?) client needsAvailability of all TVET programs, information, and support services from a single source to respond to clients’ HRD needs
12Registration of TVET institutions based on weak criteria and weak audit for complianceA standards-based registration system supported by a strong audit process to assure ongoing TVET quality
13Certification based on testing to curriculum and out-of-date textsCertification based on competency testing at national enterprise standards
14Few operational linkages with enterprise at national and operational levelsTVET institutions driven by enterprise demand in national and local partnerships; OJT a part of most training 
15TVET institutions directly managed by GovernmentInstitutions managed by Boards but with limited academic autonomy for credit programs.
16Academic curriculum based on traditional curriculum design methodsCompetency-based courseware linked to enterprise-set competencies/ qualifications
17System target of traditional technologies regardless of the employment/self-employment needs in the localityVariation of skill needs by province; availability of most skilled jobs in self-employment, requiring entrepreneurial skills in a broad range of technologies/ crafts
18Potential students with minimal information on TVET  A locally based information/counseling system that will provide potential students with accurate/timely information on choices

As is so often the truth, make sure you understand what can work for you before you listen to the answers provided by consultants with great experience in their own culture and economy, but not a clue about yours.

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