The Impact of a Massive Shift in TVET Demand

The last 10 years has had a massive impact on the demand for the skills and numbers of TVET graduates in developed economies. The final triumph of computerization in every facet of economic life and those without basic computer management capabilities are squeezed further and further into two very narrow employment corrals.

Museum of Native Art in Sta. Fe, New Mexico.

At the bottom, below-minimum–wage support services create entry points to the job market but with almost no prospect for advancement or even basic benefits. Sitting at home on social security is an attractive option and gaming the system for maximum income is a parlour game at the heart of many lives.

The second corral is for the gifted word smith who can imagine and sell. The service economy from retail to real estate to head hunting to marketing, all create a real future for the elite arts grads with bright smiles and a polished tongue.

Beyond that, a computer skill set possibly hyphenated to a traditional employment is the basic requirement. Since the 1960s, when Universities begun to grudgingly accept the need to link degrees to employment, there has been a slow but very clear addition of a skills component to virtually every degree.

The triumph of vocationalism at the undergraduate level is now virtually complete with Community Colleges becoming the graduate schools for unskilled arts majors and the universities becoming the trade schools for the broader economy.

Thank heaven we have graduate schools to keep yesterday’s community of effete academics  occupied… or, at least, out of the way. But even there, the desperation to recruit anyone to act as an academic lab rat for 3 or 4 years suggests the growing reluctance of young people to buy the rhetoric.

The missing link is now the relationship between Universities and employers. At the top level, the best schools have technology development labs shared with industry.

The more credit hours given for these activities, the more the graduates are employed and employable. The revenues flowing to the Universities justify this even if the learning reality is not really endorsed.

At another level, some academic areas such as sociology and anthropology morphed into management theory bases to create a market for some very soft research. The MBA/Exec MBA aspiration requirement is fed by these factories. 

The rise of private sector Universities is an anthem to the recognition of many young folks that their objective is employment, not the contemplation of the infinite. 

So the key shifts are the continuing vocationalization of the Universities, the growing capacity of “vocational” community colleges to absorb University graduates into job preparation programs and the expansion of informal apprenticeship to meet the shrinking needs of old fashioned repair and maintenance skill. 

Planners are working as quickly as possible to mainstream their Ivy Covered relics into training centers for the new real world.

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