5.5.1 The Objective
There was a time when planning for vocational and technical training was a straightforward exercise: manpower planners mapped out needs of the different sectors of the economy with reasonable precision, classified corresponding jobs by level, defined skill requirements for each job, and subsequently projected the manpower needs. It was then fairly easy for educational planners to take this “dependable” information and build technical and vocational education programs on it.
Life is not that easy anymore. Everything is changing faster than the life cycle of a training program: sectoral needs, job definitions, skill requirements, and training standards. Countries, firms and workers are all feeling the effects of the changing patterns of trade and competition, technological innovation, and globalization of information.
- First, producers of tradable goods and services now must operate in a global marketplace. They are more interdependent, more susceptible to external economic shocks, and more vulnerable to international changes in demand for types and quality of products and services. The situation also makes it hard to predict the skills that will be needed in the future.
- Second, the production of manufacturing and high-valued services no longer filters down “naturally” from high-income to middle- and low-income countries based on labor costs alone. The location of manufacturing and high-value service depends on the producer’s ability to control quality and manage flexible, information-based systems.
- Third, the emerging economy will no longer be centrally created and controlled. As countries become more open to international trade, production will reflect international and not just national demand. This environment will place a premium on entrepreneurship, or the ability of individuals and institutions to respond to market changes through evolving their own businesses or creating new ones.
These facts change the rules of the game for economic success:
- Countries and firms can no longer rely on a low-wage edge; industry has to develop and mature technologically and managerially and needs to place greater emphasis on productivity, quality, and flexibility in production.
- Workers can no more be trained once for life. They need to acquire flexible training to cope with the changing nature of their existing tasks and the requirements of new tasks. Acquired skills have a short life, and many new skills are needed during an individual’s lifetime.
- Learning new skills required by emerging jobs necessitates a solid scientific and technological foundation as well as an array of higher-order cognitive and social skills, such as problem solving, flexibility, agility, resourcefulness, collaboration and teamwork, “how to learn,” and entrepreneurship.
- Everyday living is becoming more and more technologically sophisticated. Citizens need technical skills to cope with home appliances, entertainment devices, communication equipment, and marketplace processes. They need to continuously update and upgrade these skills; otherwise, and in a very short time, they will find themselves in a way “disabled” and outdated.
This situation calls for a high-quality and efficient training system to enhance the quality and efficiency of product development, production, and maintenance. Ideally, this system of skill training has the following characteristics:
- Train workers as quickly as possible and immediately place them in jobs that use their skills.
- Have the technology and expertise to train in both traditional and newly emerging skills.
Immediately incorporate into training content changes in the economy and marketplace.
Provide ordinary individuals with access to training opportunities to learn skills necessary for them to lead active lives in modern society.
5.5.2 The Potential
Traditional training programs cannot address these new realities adequately; they are costly in terms of travel and lost time on the job, disruptive, slow to be modified, and incapable of responding to new needs and provisions in a timely fashion.
Historically, the technical and vocational training sector has been very innovative and daring in the use of technology for instruction, training, and practice. In the face of the emerging challenges facing countries, firms, producers, and consumers, the advancements in ICTs offer real hope to meet these challenges in a timely, effective, and sustainable manner. ICTs can be very powerful as an instructional and distributional tool over the whole range of skill training: basic and advanced; synchronous and asynchronous; individual and group; residential and at a distance; and virtual, simulated, and hands-on.
ICTs have the potential to contribute to skill formation in the same way that they enhance the quality of learning and teaching in general (sections 5.3 and 5.4 above). Additionally, network technologies have the potential to deliver the most timely and appropriate knowledge and skills to the right people, at the most suitable time, in the most convenient place. E-training allows for personalized, just-in-time, up-to-date, and user-centric educational activities.
E-training has been most popular (and successful) in the corporate world, probably due to the culture of innovation and light bureaucracies, the feasibility of having limited and clear educational objectives, and the existence of quantifiable trade-offs. Consumers also use e-training for informal skill formation and for professional training and upgrading in certain specializations; however, corporate and consumer e-training modalities have opened new paths, raised new ideas, and generated new approaches.
5.5.3 Specific Solutions
Specific solutions described earlier to advance educational opportunities (Section 5.1.3), efficiency (Section 5.2.3), quality of learning (Section 5.3.3), and quality of teaching (Section 5.4.3) are also applicable for improving skill formation. Certain solutions, however, have been particularly effective in this area:
Simulation has long been used by trainers to facilitate skill formation. They offer a safe, efficient, and economical “virtual reality” that replicates actual events and processes under controlled conditions.
Perhaps the most notable example is the flight simulator, which offers a safe environment to train pilots. This and other simulators allow training under virtual hazardous and emergency scenarios and permit errors without expensive or devastating consequences. Simulations have also been used in such areas as:
- Reproduction of the operation of numerically controlled machine tools (known as CNC machines)
- Troubleshooting of electronic circuits
- Training for manual dexterity as in welding
- Use of computers to simulate electrical and electronic circuitry
- Use of software to emulate hardware
For more on Simulations see Resource 2.4.1.
18.104.22.168 Competency-Based Multimedia
Competency-based multimedia programs enhance the quality and efficiency of classroom-based vocational and technical education. They provide an explicit link between training and skill competencies and may lead to teaching methods that avoid conventional lectures, as is the case at Francis Tuttle (see Resource 2.4.2 ), where all live lectures have been eliminated. Videotaped lectures, written materials, and computers are used instead.
22.214.171.124 Video and Interactive Media
Videos and interactive media are valuable for firms that want their employees to upgrade their skills and for citizens who wish to learn new skills through “do-it-yourself” or “how-to” mechanisms. Television and the Internet have created a new category of programs, sometimes called “edutainment,” that combining education with entertainment. These include programs on such skills as home design and building, woodwork, and remodeling. For a sample of interactive media (videos and CDs) for skill enhancement and training, see Resource 2.4.3.
Videos, CDs and DVDs have great potential for skill training in classrooms and at home. They are now easy to produce with the introduction of digital camcorders which are relatively cheap and user friendly.
126.96.36.199 Workplace Training
Training in the workplace has become a continuous need as firms find it necessary to provide their staff with opportunities to upgrade their skills and acquire new ones to adjust to new market demands. However, traditional face-to-face training is costly—particularly in terms of trainees’ time and travel. Firms have introduced different levels of e-training—providing synchronous and asynchronous opportunities through the Internet, videoconferencing, videos, CDs, television, etc. For examples of e-training applications in specific enterprises (Axa, Carrefour, Cisco, Lucent Technologies, and corporate universities), see Resource 2.4.4.