Educating the Workforce of the Future

Posted by Paul Kruchoski
May 27, 2012
UNESCO Headquarters in Paris

On May 13-16, I joined Assistant Secretary of Education Brenda Dann-Messier at the Third International Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), hosted by UNESCO and the government of China. Over the course of four days, we heard from participants around the world about how important technical and vocational education is and what it can do to change people's lives and transform economies.

Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong said that technical and vocational education is a key part of creating green development and supporting emerging and high-tech industries. As new industries emerge, we will need to prepare the global workforce with new skills. And, at a time when technological advances are rapidly changing the demands of the workforce and 200 million people are unemployed globally, our meeting in Shanghai could not have been better timed.

Miika Tomi, a representative of the UNESCO Youth Forum, talked about working with youths as partners in addressing unemployment and economic crises. He sees technical and vocational education as a way to jumpstart economic growth, create jobs for young people, and ensure that they have the skills to enter the workforce. Of the 200 million unemployed people around the world, 75 million of them are youths.

While it is clear that technical and vocational education is important, it is a challenge to make it relevant. As the global economy changes, education systems have to adapt, preparing students for the jobs of the future, not for jobs that will no longer exist. They also have to be accessible. Finally, they must foster innovation and entrepreneurship.

Every educator I spoke to identified these same challenges, and most viewed the International Congress as a chance to find new approaches to address these issues. Everyone is looking for solutions.

During the conference, Assistant Secretary Dann-Messier talked about the United States' approach to facing these challenges: our new Blueprint for Career and Technical Education. This proposal will deliver a more relevant and results-driven education, more effectively linking technical education with the needs of employers, engaging partners, and fostering innovation. This plan will help meet President Barack Obama's goal of creating a truly 21st century American workforce: competitive, highly skilled, and prepared for emerging industries.

China's new strategy to technical and vocational education is remarkably similar to the U.S. approach, and we are looking forward to a fruitful bilateral dialogue later this summer. We are also looking to engage other countries in similar dialogues in which we can all learn about innovative approaches and ways to better connect vocational education around the world.

The transformation of technical and vocational education has only begun. Completing this effort will not be easy, but if we succeed, the benefits will be great. As a colleague from the International Labor Organization said, better trained workers help our economies run more efficiently and create economic opportunity and social mobility. Technical and vocational education can help to develop businesses and to foster young entrepreneurs. In short, it helps build human capital: the ultimate renewable resource.



Enock O.
May 27, 2012

Enock O. in Uganda writes:

I think the Chinese State Councilor Liu Yandong is right we need technical and piratical education not theoretical courses if we are to create jobs.

District Of Columbia, USA
May 27, 2012

Anna in Washington, D.C. writes:

As an educator, I could not agree more that we need to rethink how we are teaching the next generation. We can't give up on the benefits of a strong liberal arts education, but we need to increase educational opportunities at all levels, from elementary school to life-long learning institutes, in the areas of technology, business, and foreign languages.

United Kingdom
May 28, 2012

Violet in the United Kingdom writes:

Technical education is really the key point in today's world, where everything is ruled by Internet and all of the different devices, so it definitely can chane people's lives in a hige way. Even more important is, if that education directed toward the generation of the future, has as its main strategy, the ideas for greener and energy-saving planning. Then it will assure that the new leders will be notonly working on developing the economy, but will work into protection what we have as our nature.

Maryland, USA
May 29, 2012

Melissa in Maryland writes:

Two words: community colleges


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