The Structure and Objectives of Vocational and Technical Education

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Vocational and Technical Education is basis for rapid technological advancement. In Nigeria, there has been emphasis in recent times on improving Vocational and Technical Education in tertiary institutions basically for combating unemployment and poverty, as well as improving the economic performance of the nation. Vocational and Technical Education is an integral part of national development strategies because of its impact on productivity and economic development (Sanusi, 2016). It is an ingredient towards excellent management and development of human resources; which is the bedrock of the development of other sectors. VTE enhances the productivity of workers in their chosen careers and increases their earnings throughout their lifetime. The society needs competent auto repairers/mechanics, truck drivers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, computer engineers, database and web/network technicians, bookkeepers, clerks, medical technicians, vocational nurses, marketers, dress makers, home managers, and secretaries among others to function well. Vocational and Technical Education provides the much needed skilled manpower in these various spheres. Vocational and Technical Education develops employability skills in the students or youths that pursue this programme; for them to be self-employment or self-reliant in order to contribute to the national growth of this country (Abdulrahaman, 2013). If the government can finance and equip VTE adequately, offer free education and encourage the youths to go for VTE in any of the institutions offering the programme; either in the Technical College, Polytechnic, College of Education and University; they will be empowered and self-employed instead of looking for insufficient white-collar jobs. Above all, Vocational and Technical Education holds the key to national development since it is a catalyst for creating employment opportunities.

Restructurings Needed in Vocational and Technical Education for Job Creation and National Development

With mountains of challenges faced by VTE, rapid technological developments and advancements are very much on top of these challenges (Majumdar, 2011). Te demand for high level skills due to transformative nature of jobs and requisite industry needs is resulting into high unemployment rate among VTE graduates as alarmed by UNESCO-UNEVOC; the international centre for TVET based in Bonn, Germany. The centre states that “ everyday people worldwide gain access to basic education, and this has sparked career expectations and raised hope for better futures amongst many young people, yet, these hopes are not satisfied”, and as such, “there is high job insecurity, skills mismatched and growing youth unemployment” These challenges according to UNESCO-ENEVOC, are putting increasing pressure on education systems to provide relevant education for the world of work, and the unanswered question remains “how do we deal with these challenges”? To answer this question, VTE must initiate and sustain practical reforms in order to make it relevant for Job creation and national development in Nigeria. Amongst emerging reforms necessary in VTE for Job Creation and national development, Yalams (2019) outlined three basic steps called change agenda in reforming TVET curriculum for job creation and national development, which are:

Greening Vocational and Technical Education Concept

This is aimed at delivering knowledge and practices towards a more environmental friendly, enhancing decision-making and lifestyle in more ecologically responsible manner. According to Yalams (2019), all aspects of education as an industry revolves around three cardinal points. The people, the gains/profits of the system and the planet/environment (PPP). Short-term targeted training typically following initial education or training, and aimed at supplementing, improving or updating knowledge, skills and/or competences acquired during previous training (CEDEFOP, 2008). Based on this consideration, the UNESCO-UNEVOC (2014) has advocated an approach for sustainable transformation of VTE institutions globally from a non-sustainable (Red) into a more sustainable (Green) one. Greening VTE OR GVTE is an emerging concept emanating from UNESCO-UNEVOC as part of fulfilment of UN’s decade for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which has now translated into what is called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Majumdar (2011) describes GVTE as “a way of thinking in a sustainable manner as it relates to acquiring, consuming and disposing of utilities, proactive actions aimed at improving human wellbeing and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risk and ecological scarcities” The GVTE concept is aimed at transforming our campuses, changing societal attitudes, land spaces, people’s culture and lifestyles towards becoming more environmentally friendly. Within the GVTE, framework, the emphasis is on waste management; renewable energy; environmental protection; community service programmes among others. It will provide jobs that contribute to preserving or restoring environmental quality, while also meeting longstanding demands and goals of the labour movement, such as adequate wages, safe working conditions and workers’ rights. According to Majumdr (2010), GVTE has been introduced to play an important role in the transition to green growth and societies and to create a sustainable future. A green economy requires a workforce with the appropriate skills and training which is lagging behind at present; a place for VTE to fill. The concept of GVTE is to provide knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society (CEDEFOP, 2012). Framework for GVTE according to Majumdar (2012) consists of five layers as follows: Greening the Campus, Greening the Curriculum, Greening the Research, Greening the Community and Greening the Culture.

Restructuring VTE through the STEM Integration Concept

For optimal achievement of VTE goals in Nigeria, the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is idea. Science is the study of the natural world, which includes the laws of nature associated with physics, chemistry and biology. It is known as a body of knowledge that has been accumulated over time and a process that generates new knowledge (Reeves 2015). Technology on the other hand is considered as the art or craft of “modifying the natural world to meet the needs and wants of people” (ITEEA 2015). It is human innovation that involves the generation of knowledge and processes to develop systems to solve problems and extend human potential. Engineering as defined by the ITEEA (2015) is considered as the application of Mathematics and Science to create Technology. Engineering is about problem solving which uses the Engineering Design Process to create products or system that would solve problems. Mathematics on the other hand is a language of numbers, operations, patterns and relationships. It is used in Science, Engineering and Technology to meet human needs and wants. Putting the four fields together forms the acronym ‘STEM’. But the situation currently in the Nigeria VTE curriculum and delivery system is such that, institutions teach each and related disciplines in ‘Silos’. This approach does not help the 21st Century leaners to think critically and devise sustainable solutions to existing problems as against an integrated approach. In today’s globalization world of new inventions and innovations where most developments involve STEM education workforce is needed to stay relevant and competitive. Thus, for a country to fully develop, it will need to incorporate the integrated STEM approach at all levels of its instructional delivery. The importance of iSTEM education therefore in the VTE curriculum can be seen through the following reasons: since VTE is all about career preparation, students are shown how their careers are connected to STEM in VTE, bearing in mind that many of the skills most needed to compete in the global market of the 21st Century are technical/vocational in nature. The integration of STEM education into VTE curriculum helps build products’ needed for the world of work.

Restructuring VTE through Competency-Based Approach

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The National Board for Board for Technical Education (NBTE) in Nigeria, recently just started the implementation of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) as part of VTE reformation process. This newly introduced system employs the Competency-Based Education and Training (CBET) or Competency-Based Learning (CBL) approach in which learners are trained and certified based on their attainment of competencies in any given career or skills clusters. Competency is defined by Wahab (2018) as the individual’s ability to use, apply and demonstrate a group of related awareness, knowledge, skills and attitudes in order to perform tasks and duties successfully, which can be measured against well-accepted standards (levels) required in employment against provided evidences at work location. One’s competency affects both his/her job responsibility and performance on the job; and these usually fall into two categories, namely technical and behavioural competencies. The Competency-Based Education and Training curriculum wherever employed, aims at preparing learners more effectively for real workplaces, which means that the acquisition of competencies takes into account the requirements of companies and industry that are affected by globalization and the modern technology. This approach will help in building a strong and relevance-criterion manpower and by extension make available job opportunities.

The strategy of Competency-Based VTE is based around “Occupational competencies” which are established for each career field and for each job title. According to Wahab (2018), a Competency-Based VTE system generally uses combination of powerful techniques to ensure that the needs (demands), of different industry sectors are addressed, courses or competency based training programs are developed, competency based assessments/verifications are conducted, employees/apprentices trainees/students are efficiently trained and competent. Techniques such as Management Information System (MIS), Knowledge Management (KM), Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and Competency assurance Management System (CAMS) are generally used. Competency-Based Learning (CBL) and Modules” system are designed to enable the students to obtain the practical professional skills that meet the private sector demand, an approach which aims at teaching the students concrete skills rather than abstract learning (Stabback, 2016). With the Competency-Based VTE system, usually five (5) levels of competencies are adopted by most countries, although some may choose to have more or less. The common levels are: Level 1- (semiskilled), Level 2-skilled), Level 3-(craft man) Level 4-(technicians), and Level 5-(expert). Every level has different learning and teaching objectives. The difference in the learning objectives requires different curriculum approaches and competence development. Thus, for the VTE curriculum in Nigeria to be well transformed, deploying the CBET is not an alternative but necessity.

Conclusion

The solution to unemployment and by extension national development in the country is education empowerment. The youths need education empowerment, the type offered by Vocational and Technical Education which is designed to equip the learners with skills and competencies which prepare individuals for self-employment that brings total development to individuals and the country at large. If the youths have hope of earning incomes and are empowered financially, the prevailing insecurity in this country will be reduced and the country will be developed.

Recommendations

Based on the conclusion, the following recommendations were proffered:

  1. The government and other relevant bodies should make stringent efforts to vocational education in Nigeria.
  2. The government should finance and equip Vocational and Technical institutions or departments with necessary facilities and infrastructure that will enhance effective teaching and learning in such a way that required skills for self-employment will be developed in the learners.
  3. The government should make Vocational and Technical Education free in Nigeria to enable the youths with poor financial background have access to Vocational and Technical Education in order to alleviate poverty which is dragging this country backward in terms of development.
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