Pace of Change Means Vocational Training Focus

Vocational training key to meeting demands for skilled workers.
Sep 13, 2023
Stronger links between industry and education needed for a fast-paced future jobs market.

A rapidly changing, techy jobs market needs an old solution to ensure supply of workers.

Vocational training (VET) can help bridge the divide between schooling and employment and improve learning outcomes by providing skills best acquired at work, the problem is many education systems see vocational training as second string.

Strengthening the involvement of industry in VET should be a priority but less than half of all upper secondary VET students are enrolled in programmes that include elements of work-based learning.

More vocational training will ensure young people can meet increasing demands for skilled workers and adapt to and benefit from the profound changes spurred by green and digital transformations.

The OECD Education at a Glance 2023 says that 44% of all upper secondary students are enrolled in vocational education and training across the OECD. Despite this high share, vocational programmes are still seen as a last resort in too many countries.

On average across OECD countries, a quarter of VET students are enrolled in upper secondary programs without direct access to tertiary education and vocational programmes must provide the required qualifications to continue studying at tertiary level. More tertiary programmes also need to be designed to be built on the skills that vocational graduates have.

Better and earlier career guidance is key. Young people need access to effective career guidance to encourage them to explore more employment opportunities from an early age. Students should also be able to visit workplaces and interact with a range of workers before they have to make any final decisions.

“The number of young adults with upper secondary qualifications across the OECD is improving, up from 82 per cent of 25 to 34-year-olds in 2015 to 86 per cent in 2022,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said. “However, young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds continue to fall behind. Countries need to focus on closing education gaps and provide more support to disadvantaged students and schools to give more young people the opportunity for a productive career, pay and prospects.”

Teachers are an essential part of the equation, but many OECD countries are facing teacher shortages. Average wages at primary level are 13 percent below those of other workers with tertiary education. For upper secondary teachers, the gap is still 5 percent.

Across the OECD, average statutory wages for primary and secondary teachers have grown by less than 1 per cent per year in real terms since 2015. In almost half of OECD countries, where data is available, real statutory wages have fallen. In Luxembourg, for example, real wages of upper secondary teachers have declined by 11 percent since 2015 and in Hungary the decline was 7 percent over the same period. The situation will likely worsen in many countries when considering the inflation of the last 12 months, says the report.

Countries should increase opportunities for career progression, reduce teachers’ administrative workload, improve the public image of teachers and boost pay in order to attract high quality teaching staff.

Education at a Glance provides comparable national statistics measuring the state of education worldwide. The report analyses the education systems of the OECD’s 38 member countries, as well as of Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, India, Indonesia, Peru, Romania, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.