Translating skills needs into training

It is evident from the previous section that skills assessment and anticipation exercises lead to developments in TVET policy and programmes - including apprenticeship training policy and programmes. This section will examine the ways in which information on skills needs are translated into training and certification.

In Denmark, for example, there is a clear link between the identification of the needs of the labour market and the development of apprenticeships training, via the deliberations of the Advisory Council for Initial Vocational Education and Training at the national level, the ‘trade committees’ at the sectoral level, and via the advisors from the training committees at the local level (box 34).

Box 4: From skills anticipation to skills certification – Denmark

The process from the identification of new skills needs to the introduction of a new qualification involves many stakeholders. This is formally stipulated in Danish legislation, which states that the content of the qualification should as far as possible be based on analyses and prognoses of qualification demands.

The process includes the following actors and activities:

  • The Advisory Council for Initial Vocational Education and Training advises the Minister of Education on emerging demands for new qualifications and the closure and/or revision of existing qualifications based on labour market data.
  • To support the work of the advisory council, the national trade committees produce an annual report on labour market developments relevant to the future demands of skilled workers in different occupations within the sector they represent.
  • In addition, the trade committees and the Ministry of Education may commission studies on future skills needs within a sector or an occupation, or cross-sectoral development relating to, for example, developments in robotics or transversal skills.
  • The local training committees act as advisors to the local VET institutions and are co-authors of local curricula (Apprenticeship Toolbox, 2016).

In Germany the linchpin for the entire process is the vocational training regulation, which by law defines: the designation of the training occupation; the duration of the apprenticeship; the profile of the training occupation – the typical skills, knowledge and capabilities of the occupation in a concise form; the general training plan – an outline of the syllabus structure and time allocations for teaching the required skills, knowledge and capabilities; and the examination requirements. The process is complex and inclusive. Similar arrangements of developing training regulations for apprenticeships are also found in Australia and other countries.

In a (very) simplified form, as may be seen in figure 10, the development of a vocational training regulation in Germany is divided into three stages, as follows:

  • Defining its parameters
  • Drafting and coordinating
  • Issuing the training regulation

Defining the parameters

As a general rule, the social partners develop the parameters on the basis of a skills anticipations initiative, when they see a need for creating a new occupation or revising an existing one. They submit a proposal to the Ministry that is responsible for issuing the training regulation.

Figure 3: Developing a Vocational Training Regulation - Germany

Source: Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, 2011.

Drafting and coordinating

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (the BIBB in German) asks the umbrella organizations of the employers and the trade unions to nominate experts who, together with the BIBB, will collaborate in drafting the documents for developing the new training regulation or revising the existing one. The training regulation comes in two parts: the provisions section, including the designation, the occupational profile and the assessment requirements; and the annex, which contains the general training plan.

Adopting the regulation

When all is agreed, then the training regulation and the accompanying framework curriculum are approved by the Federal-Regional (Länder) Coordination Committee for Vocational Training Regulations/Framework Curricula and are valid for the entire country (Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, 2011).

In Ireland too the process is complex and inclusive. The anticipation of skills needs is the starting point of a rigorous 10-step process which leads on to skills certification in the form of a qualification providing the basis for Quality Apprenticeship training, as may be seen in figure 11.

Figure 4: Critical path to the development of a national apprenticeship qualification – Ireland

Source: An tSeirbhís Oideachais Leanúnaigh agus Scileanna (SOLAS, 2017a).

The process starts off with an indication of skills needs; it then develops and approves, inter alia, an occupational profile, standards, curriculum and assessment; it subsequently approves the validation and quality assurance of the apprenticeship programme; and finally the apprenticeship is ready to be launched, as follows:

Step 1 – apprenticeships are employer-led in Ireland, and the industry-led consortium is required to provide evidence of demand for an apprenticeship proposal on the basis of the anticipation of skills needs.

Step 2 – the Minister for Education and Skills, with support from the Apprenticeship Council, which is made up of representatives of employers’ associations, trade unions and training providers, is required to assess and approve the proposal for development.

Step 3 – SOLAS, the public agency responsible, inter alia, for apprenticeship training, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Apprenticeship Council approve the development of the project plan and allocate the funding.

Step 4 – the industry-led consortium develops the programme, which should contain the occupational profile; the programme and standards including the curriculum and assessment; quality assurance for the on- and off-the-job training; and apprenticeship programme administration. In addition, the industry-led consortium is required to provide key documents, such as the professional award type descriptors, the validation policies and criteria, and the quality assurance guidelines for the apprenticeship.

Step 5 – the Apprenticeship Council reviews and approves the occupational profile, ensuring that there is no overlap with existing apprenticeships.

Step 6 – Quality and Qualifications Ireland, which is responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training, approves the validation and quality assurance of the apprenticeship programme.

Step 7 – SOLAS creates the Industrial Training Order.

Step 8 – SOLAS and the HEA agree on the implementation plan and budget.

Step 9 – SOLAS approves the registration for apprentices presented by the employer.

Step 10 – the industry-led consortium launches the apprenticeship.

Skills assessment and certification

‘Skills assessment and certification’ is a component of a quality assurance system and aims at assessing if apprentices have acquired the defined set of learning outcomes of a qualification. Providing apprentices with recognized qualifications improves their labour market mobility and gives greater social recognition to the skills developed through apprenticeship programmes. It also provides greater confidence to prospective employers that the apprentice has achieved the level of competency required in a specific occupation.

Many countries have prescribed both formative and summative assessment. They also issue a nationally recognized qualification to those who successfully pass the assessment. An increasing number of countries are aligning their apprenticeship qualification with the National Qualification Framework (NQF) - if it exists in the country. This can facilitate the vertical and horizontal mobility of apprentice graduates in the education and training system. Germany has aligned two years apprenticeships to level 3, and three years apprenticeships to level 4 of the NQF.

Because quality apprenticeship programmes also involve an education and training institution, skills certification often includes these institutions in the assessment process. The introduction of competency-based training and an assessment approach demands that greater attention be paid to the ability to perform tasks and achievement of competences set by industry to perform a specific job or occupation. In some countries, separate assessment centres are in place to test the competences of apprentices (e.g., trade testing centres in South Africa and Malawi).

In India, upon completion of the training period, the trade apprentices participate in an All India Trade Test (AITT) for Apprentices conducted by the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT). Successful candidates receive the National Apprenticeship Certificate (NAC), which is a nationally recognized qualification for those seeking employment (Government of India, 2017a). In Germany, an independent committee of the chamber, comprised of the employer, employee and vocational school representatives, conduct the final examination of apprentices (Apprenticeship Toolbox, 2017a).