What employers want: what do good vocational outcomes look like?

This second article in our series looks at successful outcomes for vocational education

06 June 2013 / Be the first to comment

The second article in our vocational pedagogy series tackles an important question on the road to developing a framework: what do employers actually need from a vocationally-trained employee? And are they currently getting it?

Vocational education aims to develop skills and competencies that meet the needs of employers and industry for a certain type of work – in other words, the development of expertise. Figures from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills suggest that employers struggle to fill 16% of vacancies because applicants lack the necessary skills. Bridging these perceived gaps may not be a case of more knowledge or practical skills but making education ‘more relevant’ to the needs of the 21st century workplace.

The OECD’s Skills Strategy outlines three requirements – as well as technical skills – that are fundamental for today’s successful vocational learner.
  • Higher order skills (such as creativity or critical thinking) essential for absorbing knowledge
  • Performance and moral-related character traits that help individuals become active, responsible citizens
  • Meta-layer skills (such as learning to learn and building expertise), important in a world of growing complexity.
The report How to Teach Vocational Education: A Theory of Vocational Pedagogy by the City & Guilds Centre for Skills and Development, states the case for six desired outcomes of vocational education: 
  • Routine expertise - mastery of everyday working procedures in the domain
  • Resourcefulness - having the knowledge and aptitude to stop and think effectively
  • Functional literacies - adequate mastery of literacy, numeracy and digital literacy
  • Craftsmanship - an attitude of pride and thoughtfulness towards the job
  • Business-like attitudes - understanding the economic and social sides of work
  • Wider skills for growth - having an inquisitive and resilient attitude towards constant improvement.
The last points in both frameworks are worth noting - as the working world grows more complex, the worker’s expertise must not only be relevant, but also current. Vocational learners must acquire skills that help them self-learn and develop outside the context of the classroom or workshop. This means a successful vocational pedagogy must include scope for flexibility and updates. 

Successful outcomes manifest differently across the various types of vocational careers, so a learner who works with physical materials might be faced with slightly different requirements than one with a people-focused vocation. Taking this into account will help us to make sense of the pedagogies that may be appropriate for each pathway.

Join our LinkedIn discussion group to debate the issues in this article.

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Our research reveals that three quarters of young people demand skills-based training to achieve their ambitions Read full research article