In her new book, Nancy Hoffman explores best practice examples vocational education practices around the world that the United States could learn, adopt and adapt from. Throughout the book, Hoffman outlines programs the integrate work and learning, therefore developing 21st century skills.
“What is VET? Vocational education and training (VET) helps prepare people for work, develops their skills while at work and changes what they are doing so that they can work in new or different occupations,” says Yvonne Hillier, University of Brighton (NCVER), 2009.
Through successful business and education partnerships, students all over the world are able prepare for careers in a job setting instead of an outdated classroom. In the U.S. this could become a partnership between businesses and high schools and/or community colleges to provide work force experience prior to graduation. Countries listed in this book are supporting students with these partnerships, and helping to easily transition between their education and career life. Hoffman outlines two characteristics that successful countries share with VET programs:
- They have special youth policies; they see the younger generations as important to support, protect, and engage with as an investment in future prosperity.
- And in partnership with employers and unions, they educate from 40 percent to 75 percent of their young people in a vocational education system that links education and labor market needs and includes substantial learning in the workplace.
VET systems in this book very often look different based on their location, but in general they provide a mix of classroom learning and on-site/business learning. It’s a blended learning workforce style.
Not only are students able to focus on a specific subject through vocational traning, but they pick up on general education subjects through applying for jobs (writing skills), training (technology skills) and communicating with peers.
The VET structures profiled in the book are:
- The Netherlands
- Norway, and
Hoffman focuses on what the United States can learn from other countries. Her focus on policy and practical challenges is helpful and provides a guide for real changes that can be implemented now to provide a successful vocational education system for our students. A vocational program in the United States would provide students with tools to transition easily between school and career, and allow employers to hire employees that are more work force ready and require less training.
Hoffman’s conclusion suggests that the United States focus on “college for all” mainstream route should be shifted to “careers for all” and help students find that pathway while in their high school years. A VET system is not meant to replace a four year degree, but a way to better prepare students for community college, four year universities, and career pathways.
By Nancy Hoffman, Foreword by Stanley S. Litow
Harvard Education Press
Publication Date: November 15, 2011
*This book was provided to the Getting Smart team for review.