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Experience in Vocational Education Outside Hong Kong

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4.4 The dual system highly serves the companies’ need for skilled workers as the companies in Germany could determine the content of the above-mentioned 330 state-recognised occupations. The companies do not consider the costs of training up apprentices as costs but as an investment that pays off to them in terms of productivity and competitiveness. At the same time, the companies are enabled to be that much involved as they are strongly supported by chambers and employer associations.

Close Partnership among Stakeholders

4.5 The main feature behind the German VET system is the close partnership among employers, chambers and the government. In Germany, all companies are required to join a chamber by law and these company members need to pay mandatory subscription, which is calculated based on the companies’ income. The chambers are accountable to the government on VET implementation. In particular, German chambers and professional organisations are heavily engaged in setting VET examinations and establishing VET programmes with vocational schools.

4.6 With the above, the labour market factors are remarkably well integrated into the system of vocational schools. The qualifications offered are highly recognised by the employers, who have an in-depth understanding of the content of VET programmes and the expected graduate profile. Besides, continuing education is equally valued by employers so that more than half of the German enterprises financially contribute to continuing training activities to develop the skills of their employees.

4.7 In general, apprentices are paid one-third of the starting pay of a trained skilled worker and the payment increases with each training year. After completing their training in the dual system, the majority of participants then take up employment as a skilled worker. More than half of the 18 to 24 year old with a degree in the dual system continue working in their training occupation. 32% are working in an occupation that is related to their training. Later on, many of them make use of the opportunities of continuing vocational training.

4.8 Under certain conditions, those who have qualified may obtain the academic standard required for entrance to a Fachhochschule (i.e. the University of Applied Science) in one year at school full-time. Fachhochschule is a German type of


tertiary education institution, which is usually specialised in certain topical areas (e.g.

engineering, technology or business) and could legally award bachelor’s and master’s degree. The course structure and way of teaching in a Fachhochschule is characterised by an emphasis on application and occupational practice.

4.9 In 2005, Germany underwent a major VET reform, allowing trainees to spend parts of their apprenticeship programme abroad and issuing trilingual certificates (German, French and English) to facilitate graduates to work in other European countries. Financed by the State, an initiative was also implemented to help gather small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”), which cannot provide training on their own, to share trainees. Another possibility for SMEs that cannot provide all the training are inter-company training centers, organised and run by the chambers, with financial support of the federal state.

Chart 4.1 Overview of Education in Germany


4.10 In the past, about 60% of a cohort chose to embark upon VET. However, there is an undersupply of VET students in recent years due to a lower birth rate and higher tendency for young people to attend university. The proportion of school leavers opting for the vocational route has now dropped to 55.7%, and the rest continue to pursue general education.

Career Guidance and Promotion

4.11 Schools are responsible for incorporating elements of vocational orientation in the curriculum of secondary education, which is supplemented by work visits, and by work experiences between one to three weeks in Year 9 and 10 (i.e. at the age of 14 to 16).

4.12 The Federal Employment Service provides information, guidance and placement services relating to post-school career option. Career counsellors from the Service will visit schools once every month or two and conduct career counselling interviews with individual students. Students are also taken to the Service’s career information centre to familiarise themselves with the facilities and services, and they may revisit the centre for career services when needed. A wide variety of web-based resources such as “virtual tours of firms” are available to students to learn more about apprenticeship occupations.

4.13 In order to attract young people to join VET, the German government has launched a National Campaign on VET in 2008 that includes information tours across Germany, poster campaigns, target group oriented website and social media campaign.


VET and Professional Education and Training (“PET”)

4.14 The dual system is also found in Switzerland, where the VET system is very large and delivers very high level of skills to an exporting economy that depends upon science, technology, innovation and quality goods and services. The education system in Switzerland emphasises permeability whereby people can attend different levels of education and training according to their interest and need during their lives.

VET is considered as a very good basis for entry into the labour market and lifelong learning.

16 Source: State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland


4.15 The VET system has effective pathways from initial VET to PET. In Switzerland, about two-thirds of adolescents choose to enter VET after nine years of compulsory education and the following programmes are available –

(a) 2-year VET leading to Federal VET Certificate, intended for students with lower academic learning performance and more practical skills;

(b) 3 to 4-year VET leading to Federal VET Diploma; and

(c) Federal Vocational Baccalaureate (“FVB”), which is an extended general education to supplement the 3 to 4-year VET and is for students with higher learning performance. There is flexibility in learning structure and mode of study, for example, it can be completed during the 3 to 4-year VET with additional instruction in general education subjects, or after VET by attending classes at a corresponding institution (in either full-time or part-full-time mode). FVB holders are entitled to enroll in any of Switzerland’s universities of applied sciences or obtain an additional qualification needed to enroll in a cantonal university or a federal institute of technology in Switzerland.

4.16 PET is further education and training that prepares one to assume demanding roles and responsibilities in a technical specialist and/or managerial position. In Switzerland, a PET qualification is a degree at tertiary level equivalent to a university degree, which is awarded through a federal examination or by a PET college. Similar to the dual system, it builds from work experience and combines classroom study with the practical know-how gained in the workplace. The practical side of the dual approach is covered by the fact that students preparing for the federal exams or attending a PET college keep on working part-time in their company.


Chart 4.2 Overview of Education in Switzerland

Career Guidance and Promotion

4.17 In Switzerland, career guidance to help young people make an occupational choice is the responsibility of school teaching staff and could begin in the sixth year of schooling (12 years old). In the sixth year, students learn about the businesses and economic life of the area in which they live, and find out and discuss at school the jobs that their parents do and how their parents came to choose their occupation. In the eighth and ninth years, career guidance session is included in the compulsory education that students will visit careers centres which provide an


independent professional career service for individual counselling. There are tools for assessing students’ talent and abilities for career advice.

4.18 In the final year of the 9-year compulsory education, students are offered with aptitude tests, classes on writing application letters for apprenticeship positions together with other activities to help the student arrive at an occupational choice and to find an appropriate apprenticeship place.

4.19 Separately, promotion could be done in the form of recruitment. In Switzerland, the recruitment procedure in some training companies begins more than a year before the training commences, starting with an information day providing information on the training programme and the companies. Some of them may also offer work experience days before the formal training. Such a high-profile and experiential recruitment process could raise the awareness of VET in the community and allow trainees to make an informed decision before being admitted to an apprenticeship.

United Kingdom17 Delivery of VET

4.20 In all four places that make up the United Kingdom (“UK”) (i.e. England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland), skills are delivered through a range of organisations. These include –

Schools: Deliver a range of core skills and vocational courses, particularly for learners aged 14 to 18.

Further Education Colleges: These institutions are at the heart of the VET sector in the UK. They deliver various kinds of skills to learners from the age of 14.

Universities: Alongside academic and higher-level vocational and technical skills, universities also deliver core skills and some have a focus on enterprise and employability. Learners usually start their university education from the age of 18.

17 Source: The British Council in Hong Kong


Private Training Providers: They deliver a range of skills but usually with a focus on the vocationally specific elements. They often deliver employability skills through this focus and offer courses for learners over the age of 16.

Employers: Many employers now provide on and off the job training opportunities, often through apprenticeships. Training is normally directly related to the job role and the needs of the organisation.

Qualifications frameworks support this progression, so that both vocational and academic qualifications can be seen as of equivalent value.

4.21 It is worth noting that the 16 to 19 Study Programmes were introduced in England starting from September 2013. All students aged 16 to 19 in full or part-time education in England are now expected to follow a study programme tailored to their individual needs, education and employment goals. The Programmes incorporate high quality, substantial qualifications and purposeful work experience. “Substantial qualifications” will be of sufficient size, weight and relevance and provide a recognised route into a trade, profession or form of employment, or to higher education. A-levels (“General Certificate of Education Advanced Level” – a school leaving academic qualification taken by 16-19 year olds) and/or substantial vocational qualifications will make up the majority of the study programme time. A critical objective of the 16-19 Study Programmes is that they will not only result in robust learning programmes for learners, but will also help to build parity of esteem between academic and vocational provision by recognising both as potential routes to higher education.

4.22 Also in England, Career Colleges are being introduced, designed to increase the range and choice of opportunities open to 14-19 year olds. They provide accelerated, vocationally focused programmes of study at colleges equipped to the highest standards staffed by expert teachers and supported by employers.

4.23 Scotland is currently undergoing substantial structural and policy reform of VET provision as part of the reform of post 16 Education. This is underpinned by an approach that sees vocational learning as part of a holistic spectrum of skills, reflecting the wider philosophy underpinning the curriculum in Scotland, “Curriculum for Excellence”.


Involvement of Employers

4.24 The UK has a long history of involving employers in the design and delivery of its skills systems. Among other things, a key way in which employers have been given increasing ownership of VET in England is through the trailblazer apprenticeships. Large employers are being encouraged to get together to develop high-level standards of apprenticeship training to replace some of the very detailed standards that have been seen to inhibit progress.

4.25 A new vehicle has also been introduced for delivering apprenticeships – the Apprenticeship Training Agency (“ATA”). This scheme seeks to address the issue that SMEs often find it difficult to support the employment of an apprentice on their own. In this scheme – run mainly by Further Education Colleges – the ATA itself becomes the employer and it allows for apprentices to be shared between SMEs.

4.26 In Scotland the Modern Apprenticeships Scheme offers people aged 16 and over the opportunity to develop their workplace skills and experience, and gain a qualification while in paid employment. There are around 70 types of modern apprenticeships available across a range of occupations including accounting, plumbing, hospitality and engineering and across four levels (2, 3, 4 and 5) which represent the level of Scottish Vocational Qualification that apprentices can achieve.

Most combine on-the-job training by employers and classroom-based learning delivered by a training provider such as a college.

Promotion of VET

4.27 Organisations such as the Edge Foundation and the Skills Show promote the value of VET by celebrating success and showcasing talent and economic contribution of VET students and graduates. The Edge Foundation is an independent education foundation, dedicated to raising the status of practical, technical and vocational learning. As part of this work, the Edge Foundation has created “VQ day”, which is a day of nationwide celebration of vocational qualifications. First launched in 2008, VQ day sees national celebration events and award ceremonies take place in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are also regional and local events organised by colleges and training providers, such as “Have a go” events to introduce young people to careers they may not have previously considered by


allowing them to try out different skills. As for the Skills Show, it is the nation’s largest skills and careers event, attracting over 73 000 visitors, showcasing skills, and hosting the UK Skills Competitions – finding the national champions that will be put forward in the WorldSkills International Competition.

Careers Advice and Guidance

4.28 In England, 14-16 year olds obtain careers advice and guidance independent from their school, so that they can understand the best available route to their personal needs unbiased by their school’s priorities.

4.29 Careers advice in Scotland is currently undergoing review. The review follows the publication of the policy paper “Career Information, Advice and Guidance in Scotland: A Framework for Service Redesign and Improvement” in March 2011.

The paper highlights the Scottish Government commitment to an all-age universal Careers Information Advice and Guidance Service. At present, as part of the 16+

Learning Choices, schools are required to provide a service that involves pathway discussions from the age of 14 including VET options.

Australia18 VET in Schools

4.30 In Australia, VET programmes can only be offered by Registered Training Organisations (“RTOs”). These include Technical and Further Education (“TAFE”) institutes and private colleges. Some universities may also offer VET courses in addition to higher education courses. VET is available for students at senior secondary schools that are also RTOs or through arrangements made by the schools with an RTO.

In Australia, Vocational Education and Training in Schools (“VETiS”) is a key component of the government’s strategy to address skill shortages by providing different options to students, who could undertake VET at school as part of their school studies by enrolling in a course offered by an RTO or as a school-based apprentice or trainee. VETiS comprises accredited and nationally recognised VET certificate programmes, which could contribute towards the completion of a senior secondary certificate and the qualification attained can be used for advanced standing in other appropriate VET courses.

18 Sources: The Department of Education and Training, Australia; Australian Qualifications Framework; and Australian Apprenticeships, Australian Government


4.31 In addition, there are popular TAFE institutes providing Diploma and Advanced Diploma programmes covering a wide range of study disciplines. There is also apprenticeship that leads to Certificate III pegged to the Australian Qualifications Framework (“AQF”). The Australian government and state governments provide different incentives for individuals and companies to encourage participation and completion in the on-the-job VET, such as living away from home subsidy, completion bonus and payroll tax exemptions. Apprentices are paid between 40% to 60% of the minimum wage in the early years of training, and receive at least the minimum wage or 80% to 95% of the skilled worker’s rate at the final year of training. An employee can only be paid apprentice and trainee pay rates if they have a formal training contract with their employer. The training has to be registered and recognised by a state or territory training authority. These employees must undertake training with a RTO. In general, an adult apprentice (aged 21 or above) can usually be paid at a higher rate in Australia.

4.32 In Australia, there is a National Skills Needs List (“NSNL”) which identifies the traditional trades that are experiencing national skills shortage. NSNL is based on detailed labour market research and analysis undertaken by the Department of Employment and is reviewed regularly. The updated NSNL as at July 2014 contains some 60 trades, ranging from plumber to electrician to telecommunications technician, etc.

Career Guidance and Promotion

4.33 Instead of personal counselling service, online sources such as websites are widely used by the public to access information on VET in Australia. Examples include the Apprenticeship and Traineeship Information Service which provides apprenticeships and traineeships information and resources about RTOs, Australian Apprenticeships Pathways which provide the job pathway charts of different industries in accordance with AQF and “myFuture”, an online career information and exploration service for students and parents to explore different occupations. Furthermore, there are one-stop centres, namely Australian Apprenticeships Centres, at local areas responsible for marketing and promoting VET, administering incentive payments to employers and individuals, and providing advice and support to all involved in VET.



4.34 Singapore relies heavily on an educated and skilled workforce, and through institutional training provides entry-level training in skilled occupations to young people. Its VET system has a clear separation between initial and continuing education and training. While the initial VET is designed to provide the necessary skills and knowledge for employment, and is delivered by polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (“ITE”), workers can continue to upgrade their skills or learn new skills through continuing education and training programmes organised by the polytechnics, ITE and the Workforce Development Agency. After 10 years of general education, students may enter one of the following VET programmes offered by the polytechnics and ITE –

 2-year National ITE Certificate;

 2-year Higher National ITE Certificate; or

 3-year Diploma courses.

4.35 Separately, ITE also facilitates industry-based training to complement training conducted at VET institutions. ITE’s industry-based training schemes include –

(a) Traineeship

 Training at the workplace begins at the beginning of the 2-year course; and

 Trainees earn SGD 800 to 1,000 per month (i.e. about HK$4,800 to 6,000), 50% of which is subsidised by the government.

(b) Approved Training Centre Scheme

 The Scheme allows employers, whose companies have been certified by ITE as Approved Training Centres, to train their employees in-house. Employees who pass the course are awarded ITE certifications.

19 Source: The Institute of Technical Education, Singapore


(c) Certified On-the-Job Training Centre Scheme

 Companies are encouraged to set up an in-house, On-the-Job Training (“OJT”) system to train their employees. ITE assists these companies in the setting up of the system, and, if they fulfill the criteria, certify them as Certified OJT Centres of ITE. For these companies, the training programmes are developed by the companies.

 Employees obtain certificates issued by the companies and these qualifications are recognised for entry into ITE courses.

4.36 The Singapore government has provided land and invested in the transformation of VET by consolidating and converting 10 ITE campuses to three mega campuses with state-of-the-art facilities to enhance the quality of vocational education. The campuses have over 70% purpose-built laboratories and workshops for simulated real-world hands-on and practical training.

4.37 For the past years, Singapore has achieved a relatively high Gross Domestic Product growth. Sustained growth has created considerable demand for skilled workers in the various sectors. Concurrently, manpower is required for supporting its high-technology manufacturing and services industries. Therefore, the government’s education and training policy, which was initially focused on school and higher education sectors, has been shifting to focus on VET and continued up-skilling of the local people.

4.38 It is worth noting that the Applied Study at Polytechnics and ITE Review Committee in Singapore published a report in August 2014 with recommendations on increasing the practical relevance of skills training in polytechnics and ITE to the working world to prepare its young people for the changing needs of society. The report can be assessed at http://www.moe.gov.sg/aspire/report/report-for-aspire/index.html. Separately, one of the key areas highlighted in the 2015 Budget of Singapore is to “empower every individual to learn and develop throughout life” to support continued economic growth. Amongst other initiatives, the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme will be introduced from 2015. Fresh graduates from polytechnics and ITE will be matched with suitable employers. They will start working and undergo structured on-the-job

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