Having been worked in both areas for decades, vocational education and professional training, I might tell the differences and the requirements of both. What are the responsibilities, the expectations and the requirements of involved partners and how should they work together and support each other?
Vocational education offers mainly an institutionalized approach to cultivate young people for the requirements of life and work. This has a long history and is based on the ideas of people like Georg Kerschensteiner who was developing a reform which was adjusting the way of learning from an accumulation of knowledge to shaping skills and competence which prepare people for stepping in there next phase of living and working in a society, an important major part of which is a preparation for a future job usually in a company. Here is the interface where we handover the young graduates to their next phase – the working phase.
It is very clear and logical that the receiver, the companies expect the best possible human resources for their production or service tasks. But how good can vocational schools prepare for the companies and what is actually “good” or “not good”? This is for based on two factors, while I know there are more complicated theories regarding competences in the academic world:
Personal competencies – these factors are changing according to the culture development
- Personal responsibility
Professional competences – these factors changing according to the technologies and processes
- Professional knowledge
- Professional skills
The better vocational schools can prepare people in these areas the less energy companies have to invested in human capital. But there is a limitation that can be achieved. The limitation is rooted in the diversity of company culture and variation of technology. That means vocational schools have to prepare people to be able to adapt in the easiest possible way to the specific requirements of the companies. The final development must be done by the companies. These are:
- Personal competences – branding and internal processes
- Professional competences – brand-specific knowledge and skills
How can schools better prepare?
When we are going the way of teaching more and more company-specific content we overload students with knowledge which is mainly not important for their job later on. Students have to learn how to learn. Students have to learn how to work in teams with colleagues and clients. They have to learn how to solve problems and take challenges. A better preparation can be achieved by making things more general. General means, we have to teach similarities and differences. We have to teach less but good. We have to teach basics to make the people understand. If I know how to check a fuse, in general, I can check it on every system and on every car. I can link my knowledge to other cases, new upcoming problems and this is what we need. People have to prepared for the future because the future is different to what we can see today and the future is changing faster than it is changing now.
In opposite, the industry has to give especially vocational schools more support in terms of cooperation and information. The industry must be aware of its role and responsibility to support vocational schools because these schools are preparing the future resources for the industry and securing the success of their business. A positive example is the commitment of all car producers in Europe to offer many courses and course material to vocational schools in Germany annually. I hope this can also be a blueprint for the Chinese market to strengthen the knowledge transfer and the cooperation between industry and vocational schools. A symbiosis of a successful partnership.