Teachers and Leaders in Vocational Education and Training

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Teachers and leaders are central to vocational education and training (VET). Often referred to as a “dual profession”, VET teachers require both pedagogical and industry knowledge to prepare young people and adults for the labour market. Institutional leaders in VET play many important

The landscape of teaching and learning in VET is changing, as are the skills the labour market needs, reinforcing the need for VET teachers to keep abreast of new pedagogical approaches and classroom technology and keep up to date with the realities of the workplace. For example, increasing demand for basic, digital and soft skills in the labour market means VET teachers need to equip themselves with these skills and teach them to their students.

These diverse and changing requirements create several challenges for the sector. VET teacher shortages are significant in many OECD countries. Half of further education college principals in England (United Kingdom), half of states in the United States, and a third of VET principals in Denmark, Portugal and Turkey reported shortages. VET teacher supply is estimated 80% of the demand in Germany, 70% in Korea and 44% in Sweden. While training is crucial to prepare and develop VET teachers, many countries struggle to cover the full mix of skills they need. Moreover, VET teachers often face barriers to accessing training due to lack of support or incentives, and conflicts with their work schedule. Similarly, the complex set of responsibilities VET leaders face are not always matched with sufficient access to relevant training opportunities and targeted support.

1. Ensure an adequate supply of well-prepared VET teachers

Increasing the attractiveness of VET teaching could encourage more people to join the profession. Financial incentives and support targeted at initial teacher education and training (ITET) and professional development (PD) can help attract and retain VET teachers. Likewise, targeted financial incentives and support can encourage industry professionals into VET teaching in shortage areas. VET teachers who receive targeted support during their careers are more likely to stay in the profession. For example, the attrition rates among new VET teachers can be reduced through mentoring and structured induction programmes. For experienced teachers, attractive career pathways and targeted support can encourage them to stay in the profession while allowing them to move into senior or management-level positions or into other subject areas.

Employing industry professionals can ease VET teacher shortages. As they generally lack the required teaching qualifications and pedagogical skills, providing flexible pathways for qualification, training and recruitment can ease their entry into teaching. For example, countries may relax qualification requirements, if needed, for industry professionals or for graduates from higher education specialising in the relevant subjects, and provide alternative routes to obtaining teaching qualifications. Part-time work can also facilitate flexible teaching in VET, but should not come at the expense of VET teachers’ working conditions and teaching skills. Collaboration between VET institutions and industry should be strengthened to facilitate the engagement of industry professionals in VET teaching.

Initial teacher education and training programmes should develop future VET teachers’ pedagogical skills alongside their basic, digital and soft skills, and the vocational skills and knowledge needed by the labour market. There are many initiatives aiming to develop strong pedagogical and vocational skills in VET teachers. Education and training institutions have to keep their curricula up to date, collaborate with VET institutions to offer practical teacher training, and develop research and innovation into pedagogical approaches. Offering work-based learning opportunities in industry as part of ITET can be particularly helpful for those with no industry background.

Changing teaching and learning environments, as well as the changing needs of the labour market mean VET teachers need to continue to develop their skills after leaving ITET. Several countries give them the means and support to participate in PD. To make such participation more effective, VET teachers’ training needs need to be assessed so that relevant, customised and engaging PD can be provided. Participation can be increased by fostering collaboration between VET stakeholders, including VET institutions, teacher and school networks, local companies, and universities and other associations.

Innovative pedagogical approaches can improve the quality of VET teaching and foster the development of transversal skills, including soft and digital skills. VET can benefit from the flexibility, cost- effectiveness, safety and other advantages of new technology, such as online learning, virtual/augmented reality, robotics and simulators. Encouraging the adoption of such approaches can begin by fostering VET teachers’ capacity to take advantage of new and existing technology. Countries need to help VET teachers to regularly update their pedagogical knowledge and digital skills and adjust their teaching methods by providing training and networking opportunities.

To encourage the effective use of innovative pedagogical approaches, countries should also provide strategic guidance and institutional support to VET teachers. This could include guidance on how to choose effective teaching methods, combined with improving their access to digital devices, high-tech equipment and technical support. Countries can also promote innovation in VET by establishing partnerships between the VET sector and industry to improve the procurement of materials and equipment tailored to teaching and learning needs. More broadly, they need to raise awareness of the importance of innovation, information and communications technology (ICT) and soft skills in VET to encourage collaboration among relevant stakeholders to make VET more innovative.

VET institutions need well-prepared leaders. They have to understand the VET sector and the labour market while also having the organisational and pedagogical leadership skills needed to improve teaching and learning. To ensure that VET leaders can effectively carry out their complex and varied roles, countries should ensure they are all equipped with the right skills by clarifying their roles and tasks and providing access to initial training and professional development, as part of a coherent skills development strategy. Leaders should also be supported in their role, especially at the start of their careers. It is also important to make VET leadership roles more attractive, by developing middle management roles and leadership teams to assist leaders with their responsibilities, giving suitable external candidates access to the profession, and supporting VET leaders through peer learning.

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