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The global economy is becoming more professionalised and not everyone needs a university degree to be successful. Many of the western countries give great importance to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET). TVET provides an opportunity to school leavers who do not wish to go for a degree and train them in professional knowledge and skills for employment. The TVET courses provide education, training and skills required by the job market or to create people with technical knowledge who can jump start their careers after school.

The idea of TVET is not new and has been used around the world for many decades. Its proper implementation makes a massive difference in developing a nation’s ability to maintain quality and providing employment opportunities to the youth, especially 14 to 19 year olds. In Australia, over 34% employers view TVET as an essential job requirement.

Just like many other countries, Pakistani employers feel that colleges and universities do not provide them with the workers who have the necessary skills to be ready for work. They feel that a greater level of experience is needed. TVET courses can be designed in partnership with industry to drive up quality and relevance to what service or job is being delivered. For example, a huge portion of the Chinese work force is in fact without many graduates but has workers with a lot of vocational training.

As another example, the aim of many UK institutions is to be fully active in the labour market, with appropriately qualified people who have skills to innovate and contribute to UK prosperity. This is achieved by communicating effectively with the industry, ensuring that enough of the workforce is diverted towards the particular needs of the economy and industry.

In Pakistan, many people think that TVET is something of low quality, low standard or for people with lower abilities. This is not true. In countries with very developed and integrated economies, many intellectual youths decide to take up a more practical route to their target career rather than spending hundreds and thousands of pounds on a conventional degree programme, at the end of which they still would struggle to get a job. This includes apprenticeships, and TVET programs, which are abundant within the UK. This equips them with skills from the outset of leaving college and although a degree is not achieved, the experience compensates for this.

As good as it is for developed economies, developing countries like Pakistan can immensely benefit from this type of education system. Small scale institutions that can provide quality training in the form of a diploma can be setup with less costs than a university. These can be scaled in the smaller towns of Pakistan rather than expensive large cities. Existing facilities of schools can be utilised or upgraded for a range of courses.

Of course, a level of quality control is needed. The qualifications obtained through these vocational institutions can be accredited by various universities. Universities may then accept these qualifications for advanced entry into a degree programme should someone wish to obtain a degree thereafter. Usually, each year of vocational training counts as an equivalent to a year in university; a two year diploma can provide direct entry into the final year of an honours degree programme in the UK. Of course, some supplementation of knowledge would be necessary but similar approaches could be adopted in Pakistan.

Alongside 165 Higher Education Institutions (Universities), there are over 900 vocational training providers in the UK, which ensures that the workforce is equipped with the right and relevant, up to date skills which are essential to delivering sustainable growth and prosperity.

Schools in the UK educate children about careers and also about these vocational qualifications. Many students opt for a quick career start, rather than waiting for another 3 years in the academic setting of a university to gain experience and develop relevant skills.

The TVET courses usually comprise of education and training for a specific occupation which may range from business administration and management to aeronautical engineering and computer graphic designing.

TVET courses have numerous benefits. Having a specialised workforce ready to take up jobs, with professional abilities matching international standards, is just one. Many studies show that employers prefer to hire people who already have the skills rather than training someone new, again, due to the experience aspect. TVET can also be used to retrain the workforce for a new trait or profession. The skills can be developed over a shorter period of time than conventional degree programmes and a more kinaesthetic delivery means relevant experience is obtained, which of course is underpinned by theory.

Pakistan has very few vocational institutions which could be expanded to higher secondary schools, enabling development of a competent workforce which will not only contribute to Pakistan’s economy, but also raise the overall quality of service and industry in Pakistan. Pakistan’s current perception of any education besides conventional degrees can easily be described as condescending, and this view will have to change to accommodate any development or enhancement of industry and economy. TVET courses are a great and practical way to start.

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Dr. Ajaz Ali

Ajaz Ali, holds an MBA from the University of Birmingham and doctorate in computer science from University of Sunderland. Aside from his role as academic head of computing at Ravensbourne University London, he occasionally writes about education, technology and business.