EDEV_505 Week 2_6

Your third point about student employability raises questions about the nature of vocational and general study. Yesterday, the OECD blog (van de Werfhorts, Forster & Bol, 2016) addressed the question that if vocationally trained students have a head-start on career opportunities, might they lose out in the long term because their once-useful skills eventually become redundant? They show that for both men and women, vocationally trained students are more employable than generally trained people at the early stages of their careers. However, parity is reached at around 35 years of age, and from that point onwards, generalists have more employment opportunities (in the 22 countries participating in the Survey of Adult Skills).

They distinguish between countries that have a high internship component (e.g. The Netherlands and Germany) from those whose internship component is low or non-existent (e.g. the US) and use this distinction to test if there is a difference. They find one. (But be careful when reading the blog: the figures for Average Marginal Effect of Vocational Education Training for AGE and for MEN are identical. This error may be symptomatic of other carelessness in the analysis or just a slip.)

I can understand the desirability of a college to promote employment rates upon graduation. Graves (1970) characterises humans at Level 3 (of 8) as valuing halves and have-nots, i.e. social power or power potential, and having a prime motivation towards individual survival. I surveyed my students informally and most self-identified with this level saying that they cannot begin to embody higher maturational characteristics until they, themselves, are secure both physically and psychologically. Employment is the wall they must climb and its shadow darkens every other aspect of university life. Yet in this, there is a tension between the understanding and goals for the student of the (adult) educator and the needs of the immature student. If a college can guarantee employment, some aspect of the education process must suffer. (I realise that this is an empirical question. If you know of any studies that address this, please let me know.)

Furthermore, the issue extends beyond employment and on to the type of society that is being formed through the education system. Vocational education has perhaps a year’s less academic training than an equivalent length general course (van Melle, personal communication*), and the vocationally trained student will have a narrower breadth of interest. Also, being trained in a particular skill set may have immediate benefits, but it does run counter to the aspirations of life-long learning and the recognised need to develop citizens who can retrain multiple times during their lives (McCaffery, 2010).


*Acknowledging our Skype very interesting and productive Skype meeting.

Graves, C. W. (1970). Levels of Existence: an Open System Theory of Values. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 10, 131–155. doi:10.1177/002216787001000205

McCaffery, P. (2010). The Higher Education Manager’s Handbook: Effective Leadership and Management in Universities and Colleges (2nd ed.). Milton Park, UK: Routledge.

van de Werfhorst, H., Forster, A., & Bol, T. (2016). Is more vocational education the answer? Education and Skills Today. Retrieved July 20, 2016, from oecdeducationtoday.blogspot.jp/2016/07/is-more-vocational-education-answer.html

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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