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Vocational education (or Vocational Education and Training (VET), also called Career and Technical Education (CTE)) prepares learners for careers that are based in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and totooly related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation, hence the term, in which the learner participates. It is sometimes referred to as technical education, as the learner directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology.
Generally, vocation and career are used interchangeably. Vocational education might be contrasted with education in a usually broader scientific field, which might concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge, characteristic of tertiary education. Vocational education can be at the secondary or post-secondary level and can interact with the apprenticeship system. Increasingly, vocational education can be recognised in terms of recognition of prior learning and partial academic credit towards tertiary education (e.., at a university) as credit however, it is rarely considered in its own form to fall under the traditional definition of a higher education.
Up until the end of the twentieth century, vocational education focused on specific trades such as for example, an automobile mechanic or welder, and was therefore associated with the activities of lower social classes. As a consequence, it attracted a level of stigma. Vocational education is related to the age-old apprenticeship system of learning.
However, as the labor market becomes more specialized and economies demand higher levels of skill, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education through publicly funded training organizations and subsidized apprenticeship or traineeship initiatives for businesses. At the post-secondary level vocational education is typically provided by an institute of technology, or by a local community college.
Vocational education has diversified over the 20th century and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism, information technology, funeral services and cosmetics, as well as in the traditional crafts and cottage industries.
In Australia vocational education and training is post-secondary and provided through the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system and by Registered Training Organisations. This system encompasses both Government and private providers in a nationally recognised quality system based on agreed and consistent assessment standards.
Commonwealth of Independent States
The largest and the most unified system of vocational education was created in the Soviet Union with the Professional`no-tehnicheskoye uchilische and, Tehnikum. But it became less effective with the transition of the economies of post-Soviet countries to a market economy.
There are two kinds of vocational education, secondary and post-secondary. Secondary education at a vocational school (ammattikoulu) is usually taken immediately after primary school, at ages of 16-21. Some programmes, however, require a secondary academic degree (ylioppilastutkinto, or matriculation examination). The education is primarily vocational, and little academic general education is given.
With academic or vocational secondary education one can enter higher vocational schools (ammattikorkeakoulu, or AMK). AMK degrees take 3,5-4,5 years. Legally, they are not university degrees in Finland, although in foreign countries similar degrees may be called "university level". This is reflected by some Finnish schools giving English titles such as Bachelor of Science, with no Finnish translation.
German language areas
For example, in Germany a law (the Berufsausbildungsgesetz) was passed in 1969 which regulated and unified the vocational training system and codified the shared responsibility of the state, the unions, associations and chambers of trade and industry. The system is very popular in modern Germany: in 2001, two thirds of young people aged under 22 began an apprenticeship, and 78% of them completed it, meaning that approximately 51% of all young people under 22 have completed an apprenticeship. One in three companies offered apprenticeships in 2003; in 2004 the government signed a pledge with industrial unions that all companies except very small ones must take on apprentices.
The vocational education systems in the other German speaking countries are very similar to the German system and a vocational qualification from one country is generally also recognized in the other states within this area.
Additionally there is the Fachhochschule since the 1970's in West Germany and since the 1990's in Austria, former East Germany, Liechtenstein and in Switzerland. This type of institution offers degrees (Diplom(FH), Bachelor's and Master's degrees), which are one of the worldwide rare examples of a higher education that is considered in its own form to fall also under the (local) definition of a vocational education.
New Zealand is served by 41 Industry Training Organsiations(ITO). The unique element is that ITOs purchase training as well as set standards and aggregate industry opinion about skills in the labour market. Industry Training, as organised by ITOs, has expanded from apprenticeships to a more true life long learning situation with, for example, over 10% of trainees aged 50 or over. Moreover much of the training is generic. This challenges the prevailing idea of vocational education and the standard layperson view that it focuses on apprenticeships.
The best source for information in New Zealand is through the Industry Training Federation: www.itf.org.nz.
Polytechnics, Private Training Establishments, Wananga and others also deliver vocational training, amongst other areas.
In the United States, the approach is varied from state to state. Most of the technical and vocational courses are offered by Community Colleges, though several states have their own institutes of technology which are on an equal accreditational footing with other state universities.
Historically, junior high schools and high schools have offered vocational courses such as home economics, wood and metal shop, typing, business courses, drafting and auto repair, though schools have put more emphasis on academics for all students because of standards based education reform. School to Work is a series of federal and state initiatives to link academics to work, sometimes including spending time during the day on a job site without pay.
Federal involvement is principally carried out through the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Accountability requirements tied to the receipt of federal funds under this Act help provide some overall leadership. The Office of Vocational and Adult Education within the US Department of Education also supervises activities funded by the Act.
The Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) is the largest private association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. Its members include CTE teachers, administrators, and researchers.
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