The vocational landscape is changing. All of us in learning have a responsibility to make the experience better for learners coming through. They’re tomorrow’s employees and leaders. How can we support them better?
Here are seven quick tips to consider...
1. Listen to employers
One in three British businesses believe that our education system is failing to equip young people with the skills they need. Newcomers to the world of work were found to be most lacking in interpersonal and computer skills, while one in four employers reported a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills among even graduate recruits.
The best thing that we can do in designing vocational learning is listen to employers. They know what’s really needed to succeed. Employers are taking an increasing responsibility through offering apprenticeships and functional skills as part of their offer. We need to ensure that vocational learners emerge as work ready – ensuring that employability is marbled through any learning experience.
2. Inspire and engage them
Remember what it was like when you weren’t sure about your career direction – what you wanted to do...? If you’re lucky, someone or many people inspired you – through their advice and guidance, through waking you up to your potential, or through their own career choices and journey.
Before learning there has to be motivation. Many 16-19 year olds feel failed by the system, and intimidated by the job market that they feel unready to enter.
Kineo and City & Guilds have been working on this as part of our recent pilot, using a video wall and tutor support to help open up possible career paths. What motivation and inspiration can you provide?
3. Provide learning where they are
Vocational learners are mobile. They expect everything to be available everywhere. Learning’s no exception. Your learning designs must include a multi-device plan – tablets and smartphones. The days of providing learning when it’s convenient to a college or tutor are over. It’s got to be 24/7.
4. Create a personal experience
People in vocational education come in at different levels. Their experience with education will be mixed, and often negative. A big reason for this is that it fails to consider people as individuals.
Your approach to vocational learning must give learners freedom to choose. What pace do they want to go at? Do they want to work alone or in a group? What’s their receptiveness to different forms of learning? What level of tutor support do they need?
You can provide recommended routes towards a qualification but everyone should have the freedom, and responsibly to create their own roadmap. This was an important principle in our recent routemap design, and it’s been really well received by learners and tutors.
5. Don’t forget the tutor experience
Vocational education often succeeds or fails based on the tutor contribution. Learning technology can help to enhance tutors' involvement and reach beyond traditional methods. This can involve discussion forums to leverage their expertise across cohorts, ability to upload and grade assignments, and (as we’ve been experimenting with) ability to set challenges and provide rewards for progression. In bringing technology to the overall experience, the tutor’s role remains central.
6. Share and curate
Learners in vocational settings benefit from sharing. That can be sharing an inspirational story like the examples in the video wall, or it could be sharing content across organisations to help others. The same altruism that drives the success of many internet endeavours can be harnessed in vocational education. One college, or employer’s learning content can be valid for many learners. It’s in all our interests to educate tomorrow’s workforce. There’s a role for expert curators to help filter and focus. Step one is being willing to share your stories, resources, and content.
7. Experiment, fail, try again
It is a long time since the vocational education model started. It has great potential to change further. City & Guilds has over 100 years of heritage in vocational education. But we’re not looking to trade on the past – the future is about inventing new models (and that’s a big part of having Kineo as part of our team). Technology advances in the last 10 years present the biggest catalyst for change. We should all be experimenting with different models to open the doors to education. If you want inspiration, look at what Daphne Koller and Salman Khan are doing with Coursera and Kahn Academy.
It’s an amazing time to be at the intersection of technology and education. Let’s see what we can do – we may make mistakes but you don’t learn much without mistakes.