The success of vocational education and training (VET) in European countries, such as Finland and Germany, which enjoy some of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the industrialized world, is prompting smarter, more nuanced ways of thinking about workforce development with governments around the world. Even the Obama administration has announced new initiatives aimed at better training students for "in-demand jobs of the future" at both the high school and college levels.
There is no doubt that VET is fast shedding its blue collar stigma in white collar societies: it is no longer where you sent the low-performing kids or supposed misfits who weren’t suited for classroom learning. On the contrary, vocational schools are making a comeback with new approaches that push kids to graduate – and get them jobs too.
In Nancy Hoffman’s Schooling in the Workplace How Six of the World’s Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life (she is vice president and senior advisor at Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit located in Boston), she argues that “the smartest and quickest route to a wide variety of occupations for the majority of young people in the successful countries – not a default for failing students – is a vocational program that integrates work and learning”. She frames her discussions with a call-out to provide the education and training young people need to prepare for a career or calling.
Clearly, in her examples of best practices highlighted across Austria, Germany, Norway and Switzerland etc, the programs all share a common thread of successfully integrating work and learning. It is also noteworthy that VET in these countries enjoys high prestige, are well funded, and include students who could have gone to medical school if that had been their preference. However, the reality of exporting or implementing VET is not without barriers: many countries lack companies willing to create apprenticeship positions, and patient “masters” happy to pass on their know-how to “their” apprentices, but also the institutions, and close-knit cooperation that is required between employers, politicians, unions and other players to VET successfully.
Opportunely, with Commonwealth Government funding, Polycom was able to work together with Trade Training Centers in both South and West Gippsland to transform this ‘privilege’ into an everyday experience for the local inhabitants of Gippsland, a rural region located in the south-east of Victoria in Australia. The comprehensive range of unified collaboration solutions, including Polycom RealPresence Group Series and Utility Carts, has helped the community of Gippsland address the issue of skill shortage, and boost retention rates in schools by providing easy access to vocational learning and practical trade learning, which was previously not available to everyone in the region. Video collaboration solutions were integrated into classrooms and practical workshops within the participating educational facilities. Now, classes can remotely connect with vocational teachers who may be physically on a farm or in a commercial kitchen, hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres away. Often the instructor is wearing a mobile, on-person camera, so the students are able to see exactly what the instructor is demonstrating.
Importantly, while life might not be as exciting as in the cities, the 250,000-strong community is ensured of a strong and sustainable community well into the future when its youth population sees opportunities for employment where they grew up, and where their families are.
This blog is part of a series of 25 blogs that take a look at how Polycom has transformed industries and business functions.
These blogs are a variety of retrospective, current and visionary perspectives with the common thread of unleashing the power of human collaboration. Follow the hashtag #Polycom25 on Twitter for tweets about this significant anniversary in our history.