Comparison of Vocational Education Policies between China and the United States
Previous and ongoing financial crisis have had a particularly negative effect on young people, who are particularly vulnerable. Young people who are unemployed are often told that vocational education and training (VET) is the solution. This is a popular belief, and with good reason. When faced with gloomy job prospects, many young people have completed their studies and made investments in their personal capital. Others, on the other hand, have completely shunned school, training, and employment altogether. The financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath revealed the relationship between cyclical development and long-standing institutional aspects that influence the transition from school to work for young people who are joining the labor market for the first time in their lives (Eichhorst et al., 2015). Countries whose young people continue to have a hard time getting into the labor market are now turning towards VET, while other countries (especially in the industrialized world) are improving their VET institutions by trying a range of strategies to keep youth unemployment rates low.
It is the goal of vocational education in its widest definition to equip students with the knowledge, abilities, and technical expertise they need to pursue a career, artwork, or hobby, irrespective of age and level of schooling. Vocational education is also referred to as technical education. It is defined as the component of vocational education that provides the trainee with specific professional knowledge and skills that are the focus of each vocational training program and that enable the learner to demonstrate professional competence (Rözer & Bol, 2019). When discussing vocational training, reference is made to an activity or a collection of activities that are designed to impart theoretical knowledge as well as the professional competences required for certain types of employment. Specifically, it refers to the beginning of vocational education, the goals of which are decided by the availability of specializations and the demand for them in the local economy of the county in question. According to Bolli, Oswald‐Egg, and Rageth (2021), its broad usage in developed, highly industrialized countries such as the United States has resulted in increased demand for VET, which has garnered favor with both students and employers. Growing numbers of Chinese students are turning to it to give an alternative education to millions of students who are unable to attend traditional colleges and institutions. VET is being used in these nations to provide their citizens with the new skills that the job market wants. Aside from that, it assists in the social integration of people from a variety of different social groupings. With respect to the previous paradigm, vocational schooling was considered as an alternate option that was conciliatory in nature, and it was primarily targeted towards individuals who had not finished their secondary to tertiary education.
Applicability of VET
Education in the vocational field is separate from higher education, which includes institutions such as colleges and universities. A path through school that prepares students to work in a certain profession by teaching them the necessary skills and knowledge. Designed to fulfill the demands of the job market, Oliver, Yu, and Buchanan (2019) note that it has become an important component of the educational system in a number of countries. While an undergraduate degree offers students with the theoretical or general information that may be used to a range of professions within a discipline, vocational training gives students the specialized skills and knowledge needed to practice a specialized profession, technical expertise (such as carpentry), or specialty. Vocational training is different from an undergraduate degree in that it focuses on a specific craft, technical skill (such as technicians), or trades (such as sales) (Corsini & Brunetti, 2018). Education at the college level might include courses in a broad variety of disciplines that are not always immediately related to a student’s major and that a graduate may or may not use in their professional careers after graduation. Comparatively to traditional academic study, vocational education focuses a greater emphasis on hands-on training and preparation for a specific industry or career, rather than on general intellectual growth. In the study by Chuan and Ibsen (2021), occupational education focuses on technical studies and trades or crafts, which are vocations that need the use of hands-on skills such as plumbing, baking, or vehicle repair. Aside from that, vocational education focuses on courses that are highly technical in nature as well as professions or trades.
Given the fact that these vocations are regarded as “non-academic,” they are treated differently from careers that need a college or university degree. In contrast, Maurer (2021) found that vocational education teaches students management skills as well as employment responsibilities, such as computer programming, which prepares them for managerial positions in enterprises such as hotels and restaurants, among other things. Training programs for a broad variety of vocations are available via vocational training institutions. For example, students that are interested in improving their technical computer skills are encouraged to engage in this kind of research. Dressmaking and photography, as well as culinary arts, fashion design, interior design, and cosmetology, are all examples of creative professions where this approach of learning may be used. Among the many hands-on trades that vocational schools teach include masonry, carpentry, heating and air conditioning, automobile repair, plumbing, and electrical work, all of which are critical to the running of society as a whole (Martin, 2017). Additional uses include educating pupils about certain professional fields such as accountancy, medical assisting, or court reporting.
Advantages of VET
A career in vocational education has a plethora of advantages over other types of careers. Students who study and concentrate on a particular subject for an extended period of time may develop a talent. The opportunity to pursue an intriguing profession in a new industry will result as a result of this. It is the students who grasp the advantages of vocational education who will gain the most benefits from this kind of teaching and training. Programs in VET place a strong emphasis on the principle of Learning by Doing (Rözer & van de Werfhorst, 2020). There should be a strong emphasis placed on the value of practical learning above intellectual learning in the classroom. Kleinert and Jacob (2019) contend that students at vocational schools spend much more time polishing the practical skills that they will need and be able to use on the job after graduation. Their courses are intended to give learners with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in their chosen field of employment. By using this approach to teaching and learning, job experience does not have to be something that is achieved outside of class time via internships or low-level employment, but rather becomes an inherent component of the course. Some students may graduate with hands-on experience in their chosen field, which will enable them to jump right in when they begin working full-time immediately after graduation.
Students enrolled in vocational schools come from a diverse spectrum of socioeconomic backgrounds. In the United States, for example, Eichhorst et al. (2015) posit that learners from a range of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds are welcome to participate in courses and connect with one another. The world is becoming more and more globalized with each passing year. Individuals from all walks of life may communicate with one another instantly thanks to the internet, which contributes to the dismantling of social barriers that formerly existed between them. Individuals may learn about and experience a wide variety of cultures and environments via travel and tourism. Individuals are taking advantage of these chances at a faster and faster rate with every passing year. With such a diverse group of persons exposed to students throughout their educational experiences, it is easy to understand how these educational experiences benefit professionals (Bolli, Oswald‐Egg, & Rageth, 2021). Students graduate with hands-on experience working across cultures, a better understanding of how to communicate with people from a variety of backgrounds, and the information and skills essential to be successful in any field they choose, wherever in the world, after they complete the program. In other words, in today’s global economy, they become valuable assets to their respective companies.
When it comes to vocational education, the educational experience is much different than it is in a traditional classroom setting, as you would imagine. Students spend an excessive amount of time in physical education classes, as well as an equivalent amount of time participating in extracurricular activities, which is a problem. Students in a normal classroom may only spend a few hours per week in class owing to the time necessary to do research for their research papers outside of the classroom setting. As opposed to traditional schools, vocational schools devote a significant amount of time to developing the real-world skills and academic information that their students are acquiring (Maurer, 2021). As a result, students and instructors are able to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships as a result of this. As students go through the program, they create strong links with their classmates and develop relationships with their lecturers. Collaboration is a skill that is underappreciated in today’s society and culture (Li et al., 2019). Being able to develop this capacity is crucial for the rest of a person’s professional life. Students enrolling in vocational education and training have the opportunity to engage with their classmates and instructors in a hands-on manner, as well as get essential job experience in a group setting (Kleinert & Jacob, 2019). Additionally, immersion training may be beneficial for students who need particular equipment or conditions in order to learn and practice new talents, such as athletes. As a result, students get valuable hands-on experience in the field, which helps them prepare for their first day on the job following graduation.
When working in a vocational setting, students’ hours are quite similar to those of regular field workers, which makes the transition from student to professional much easier. Students who successfully finish a vocational program get hands-on experience in their chosen sector as well as specialized training in the field. So, Bolli, Oswald‐Egg, and Rageth (2021) found that their potential employer is aware that this person has finished specialized training and earned field experience, and that he or she is prepared to begin working in their new job with the least amount of training that is reasonably possible. A range of job options may become available to students as a result of this development. Those who attend alternative educational institutions get the education essential to join the workforce immediately and set the basis for a successful career far sooner than students who attend standard academic institutions.
Way Forward for VET and Young People
Effective VET may provide skills for both agriculture and non-agricultural living, as well as opportunities for long-term employment and self-employment in a variety of industries. A majority of young people desire to engage in various economic and income generating activities, yet they lack the expertise and the ability to do so. As a result, they are sometimes compelled to seek very low level job opportunities especially during times of financial hardship or when the family is in need of assistance (Yi et al., 2018). Aside from that, Corsini & Brunetti (2018) note that in the developing world, during a conflict or in places with unstable governments, there may be a substantial number of households headed by young people without the ability to pursue formal education and training. For example, orphan children and other vulnerable groups require skills in order to make a living. A common misconception among young people is that vocational training would improve their ability to obtain work or self-employment options, as well as their ability to become more self-sufficient over time (Velde, 2009). While it is possible that participant expectations do not meet program objectives, this might result in disappointment and discontent on the part of the participants. Employability or business prospects after the completion of vocational skills training programs are necessary conditions for the execution of such programs (Chuan & Ibsen, 2021). As a result of an inaccurate appraisal of the job market’s possibilities, a big number of young people who have earned their education in areas with little or no economic development may find themselves inundated with work opportunities. Because of this, market analysis should be included into each step of vocational training programs in order to aid young graduates in making better choices and, as a result, boosting their job and self-employment prospects.
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