(a) Promotion of Professional Image of VPET (i) Publicity Campaign
6.13 From the earlier stakeholder engagement activities, it is noted that VPET is perceived to be inferior to university education in general, even though stakeholders do recognise the merits of pursuing VPET. Entrenchment of such perception, especially among parents and youngsters alike, is adverse to the development of VPET and related industries. On the government’s part, it is in the public interest to make use of appropriate channels to roll out publicity to raise the profile of VPET. This should target at the community at large and the youngsters as the potential beneficiary.
According to the findings from the stakeholder engagement activities, government’s efforts are no substitute to the VPET providers and industries’ own initiatives in correcting such bias. It is important to project to the community what VPET is indeed about for the economy and for the youngsters.
6.14 To change the traditional perception towards VPET, the Task Force recommends the following in promoting the professional image of VPET to the community –
(i) the government to produce Announcement in Public Interest (“API”) on TV/radio by involving industry role models where appropriate. The API may also be broadcast on Facebook, YouTube, dedicated portal for VPET (see paragraphs 6.24 to 6.25 below) and other online media25;
25 Consideration may also be given to organising a competition on multi-media production (such as micro-film and radio play) featuring VPET to arouse the interest of young people and thus raise their awareness of VPET.
(ii) the government to produce TV drama series (including related publicity and production of DVDs), presenting real success stories of persons graduated from VPET programmes and make them continuously accessible to the public through the VPET Portal which facilitates guidance to students; and
(iii) the government to continue supporting major VPET provider(s) to organise large-scale skills competitions to showcase VPET students’ achievement and provide interactive activities for secondary school students’
experience, or even consider bidding for the hosting of such competitions in Hong Kong in due course with a view to raising public awareness of the professionalism of VPET and related industries as well as enhancing the skill level of local talent26.
6.15 Suggested messages / contents that may be included in the API and/or TV drama series include –
Students pursuing VPET are not inferior to those following the traditional academic route. VPET students may also have the ability to pursue traditional academic education but they have chosen VPET according to their own interests. In other words, VPET should not be regarded as a second choice;
VPET graduates with lower qualifications may articulate to higher education under a multiple entry and exit system underpinned by QF and hence not a dead end;
26 In the upcoming WorldSkills Competition to be held in Brazil in August 2015, more than 1 000 participants will compete in over 40 skills including construction, personal services, creative arts, manufacturing, etc.
Such international skills competitions have been a good platform to raise the profile of VPET in the region and promote exchange on best practices in professional education among industry leaders from the globe.
Success stories of industry personnel who pursued VPET to promulgate “Every Trade has its Master (行行出專才)”. Along the same vein, employers do endorse and recognise VPET programmes, providing progression pathways in different industries for VPET graduates;
Positive word-of-mouth of parents with their children’s real experience in VPET;
VPET-related career and promising industries with keen manpower needs; and
VPET’s contribution to the economy of Hong Kong.
6.16 Besides, carefully selected terminology should be used in the publicity materials and in all public documents in future to change the current perception towards VPET, such as “valued choice” instead of “second option”, and “VPET is for those who have good potential to develop in the relevant disciplines” rather than
“VPET is for those who are less academically inclined”. To emphasise VPET as an attractive pathway for students who have identified their own interest in the relevant area, the message “VPET is my choice” may be adopted.
6.17 To target youngsters, online and digital channels should mainly be used.
However, it is equally important to deploy conventional channels such as TV to target the parents.
(ii) Campus Facilities of VPET Providers
6.18 Some stakeholders have suggested upgrading the campus facilities of VPET providers in order to attract more youngsters to pursue VPET. On this, it is noted that some governments and private institutions in other places have directed resources to provide aesthetically pleasing campuses with state-of-the-art authentic training facilities which are commensurate with their recognition of the importance of VPET. Examples include the Cuisinart Centre for Culinary Excellence at Johnson and Wales University in the United States, the George Brown College in Canada, the Jåttå Vocational School in Norway, etc. Under the support from the Singapore government, the ITE of Singapore has also consolidated ten of their dated campuses into three modern, dignified mega campuses in recent years. This has sent a clear message to
parents and students of the value of VPET and helped position the ITE to become the attractive choice for Singapore’s young people.
6.19 Indeed, according to the survey, both secondary school students and their parents considered that better facilities and more resources from VPET providers is one of the most effective means to promote VPET. The Task Force recognises that a modern campus with quality learning facilities could provide a good study environment to students, as well as promote the professional image and high quality education provided by VPET programmes. At the same time, the Task Force notes that the HKSAR government supports the parallel development of both publicly-funded and self-financing post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong, of which some of them also offer vocationally or professionally-oriented programmes. Among various measures for the self-financing post-secondary education sector, the government allocates land sites at nominal premium or government premises at nominal rent under the Land Grant Scheme, and offers interest-free loan under the Start-up Loan Scheme for constructing or upgrading college premises. The government has also launched the Quality Enhancement Support Scheme to help institutions enhance teaching and learning.
6.20 With the above, the Task Force recommends the government to facilitate the provision of state-of-the-art facilities to VPET providers in order to provide conducive learning environment to VPET students and enhance the professional image of VPET riding on the existing support schemes or otherwise.
(iii) Quality of Programmes Offered by VPET Providers and Research Capability
6.21 There have been negative media reports occasionally on the quality of programmes by individual VPET providers. Although they are isolated incidents, the negative news might render the efforts in raising the profile of VPET in vain. The situation can be improved by putting in place more enhancement measures on the delivery of the programmes concerned, including those related to teaching and learning, assessment, etc. The Task Force also considers that enhanced support services for VPET students in particular those Secondary 3 to 5 leavers by VPET providers, with assistance offered to resolve problems faced in their study or otherwise, could help increase the retention rate and attract more youngsters to pursue VPET. On this, the Task Force recommends VPET providers to enhance quality of their VPET programmes, and strengthen the support services to students where possible. As a matter of fact, the offering of high quality VPET programmes is beneficial to students and industries concerned and can also help enhance the image of VPET.
6.22 Separately, there are views that VPET providers should also conduct research activities so as to inform teaching and learning and to enhance the profile of VPET as a whole. On this, reference has been made to the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, which provides training to VET/PET teachers, conducts research as one of its four core activities. Their research aims to provide answers to questions such as –
What is the best way to impart education and training content?
How should VET and PET programmes be adapted in the changes affecting VET learners, host companies, society and technology?
What factors influence the willingness of companies to offer apprenticeship positions? What factors motivate young people to choose specific occupations?
6.23 The Task Force notes that VTC, for example, is already conducting small-scale research activities, and practical social and industrial research is a strategic initiative of VTC in its 3-year Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2017. Also, apart from the all along research funding for University Grants Committee-funded institutions, the government has made available $3 billion to support the research activities of the local self-financing degree-awarding sector (of which some institutions also offer vocationally or professionally-oriented programmes) on a competitive basis since late 201327. With the above, the Task Force recommends VPET providers to consider whether it is appropriate for them to engage in (more) research activities (which could be action research, applied research, technology-oriented research other than academic research) to inform teaching and learning, etc.
27 Seven institutions were invited to submit applications during the First Call for Proposals in late 2013. More institutions such as THEi, a local degree-awarding member institution of VTC, has been covered under the Second Call for Proposals in late 2014.
(b) Provision of More Information about VPET and Related Career (i) VPET Portal
6.24 In order to provide standardised and impartial information on VPET and the related career as well as to establish a professional and reliable image of VPET, the Task Force recommends the government to develop and maintain a VPET portal which gathers comprehensive information on VPET programmes and related industries in Hong Kong, as well as links up other relevant portals for easy access by the general public. Information in the VPET portal should be presented in a user-friendly manner. Suggested contents that may be included in the portal are –
List of VPET providers and programmes available in Hong Kong, together with the IA/internship opportunities in these programmes;
Statistics on surveys of VPET graduates;
Progression pathways in VPET-related industries and labour market information;
Information on manpower planning (with links to the Report of Manpower Projection) and employment figures;
Success stories / role models with employers’ endorsement; and
The articulation opportunities provided under QF.
6.25 To make the portal more user-friendly, filters could be added to provide personalised search results according to one’s area of interest, desired programme discipline and industry, etc.
(ii) VPET Forum
6.26 The Task Force notes that there are international VPET forums held in various parts of the world from time to time. The Task Force recommends the government, VPET providers and industry sectors to attend these forums from time to time to keep abreast of the latest development of VPET worldwide.
6.27 Separately, it is also worth organising local VPET forums from time to time to raise public awareness of VPET and to provide up-to-date information about the developments of VPET in Hong Kong and related industries as well as career to secondary school students, their parents and teachers. In fact, from the earlier survey, 42% secondary school students, 41% of their parents and 59% school teachers considered more talks / exhibitions on VPET programmes as an effective promotion means of VPET. As such, the Task Force recommends the government or VPET providers to organise local VPET forums from time to time with the participation of the industry sectors, in order to provide up-to-date industry and career information to secondary school students, parents and teachers. It is hoped that students and parents may also interact with VPET students/graduates, VPET programme providers and industry personnel during these forums to obtain relevant advice. The senior government officials should also show support and help raise the forums’ profile by participating in the forums (e.g. delivering a keynote speech).
(c) Promotion of VPET through Career and Life Planning Education
6.28 In Germany and Switzerland, career and life planning education could start in junior secondary level (see paragraphs 4.11 to 4.13 and 4.17 to 4.19 above). In our earlier survey, about 40% of secondary school students expressed that they would look for more support from teachers and career masters for VPET and related career information. As a matter of fact, teachers and career masters should be equipped with sufficient knowledge of VPET, among other articulation and career options, in providing career and life planning education to students. In general, secondary school students in Hong Kong may not be clear about their career aspiration and they have limited information among career options. During the public engagement activities, different stakeholders have suggested enhancing the career and life planning education for secondary school students, in particular when they are still at junior secondary level.
6.29 On this, the Task Force notes that starting from the 2014/15 school year, a recurrent grant of about $500,000 has been allocated to schools operating senior secondary education levels to help enhance career and life planning education. Further, in the three years from the 2015/16 school year, EDB will enhance, reinforce and review BSPP, which could enhance students’ understanding of different trades, develop positive work attitude and prepare them for future employment.
6.30 Separately, the Task Force notes that the Hong Kong Jockey Club will donate $500 million to fund a five-year programme to help young people discover their interest and abilities and educate them on life and career choices. The programme, expected to start in September 2015, will help 50 secondary schools (including 10 schools for children with special education needs) with support measures and innovations related to professional development framework, support to schools and youths, development of empirically-based assessment tools and related resources, infrastructure building, network building and parental education through cross-sector collaboration. More than 200 000 young people aged 15 to 21 could benefit over the five years.
6.31 As parents have influence on students’ perception and acceptance towards VPET, it is equally important to involve parents in the career and life planning education by emphasising the benefits of VPET on students’ personal development and communicating clearly the future prospects of VPET in terms of articulation pathways to further studies and future career.
6.32 Making reference to experience outside Hong Kong and taking into account local circumstances, the Task Force recommends –
(i) EDB to encourage secondary schools to adopt a whole school approach in career and life planning education and enhance individual guidance and support to students to facilitate self-understanding and exploration of multiple pathways including VPET. First of all, provision of career guidance should not be the sole responsibility of one or two career masters in the school. More often, class teachers and specific subject teachers have more opportunities to share their knowledge and experience with students, which could help students with their career and life planning. For example, a Physics teacher equipped with the relevant knowledge of the
engineering industry may then offer advice to his students on the required qualifications to become an engineer and work life of an engineer. Through engaging all teaching staff in learning the latest developments of VPET and respective career pathways, students could have more access to quality career advice from the teachers who have frequent contact with them. Such involvement of all teachers in career and life planning education could build up the capacity of schools and facilitate the provision of individualised advice to students with diverse aspirations.
Separately, empirically-based and localised assessment tools might help provide reference for senior secondary students to understand their own interest and ability, thereby explore possible pathways and to make an informed study/career choice;
(ii) VPET providers and major chambers of commerce to arrange (more) training workshops cum visits for principals, teachers and career masters in secondary schools, with the facilitation of EDB through BSPP, so as to provide them with the latest developments of VPET in Hong Kong and the related careers. Such training workshops cum visits should also be extended to prospective secondary school teachers pursuing teaching programmes in tertiary institutions as well as NGOs which play a role in offering articulation and career advice to students. These training workshops will allow teachers to develop a more positive attitude and deeper understanding of VPET, and enable them to better communicate the merits of VPET to students with their knowledge and experience. EDB would facilitate participation of the principals, teachers and career masters in these training workshops cum visits;
(iii) VPET providers and major chambers of commerce to arrange (more) taster programmes for secondary school students with the facilitation of EDB through BSPP. Taster programmes offered by VPET providers would give secondary school students an idea about what to expect from VPET programmes. On the other hand, taster programmes offered by companies will expose students to authentic workplace environment and arouse their interest in certain industries, as well as provide students with better understanding of the job
requirements in different positions. Good working habits and work ethics should also be cultivated in such programmes; and (iv) VPET providers and major chambers of commerce to
organise seminars and visits for parents of secondary school students for their better understanding of VPET and the related careers as well as the progression pathways, with the facilitation of EDB. Parents should also be advised how to better understand their children’s character and interest so as to provide guidance on their children’s future career and education options. EDB should assist in liaising with schools and parent-teacher associations or their federations as appropriate.
(d) More Contribution from Industries
(i) Closer Collaboration with VPET Providers
6.33 The success of apprenticeship training in Germany and Switzerland, for example, lies on the heavy involvement and investment of employers. However, such tradition and culture have yet to be developed among employers in Hong Kong in general. Besides, closer collaboration between VPET providers and employers in delivering VPET is required28 in particular under a dual track learning model (i.e.
combining classroom study with the practical know-how gained in the workplace) in that there should be a close relationship between what the trainees have learned at VPET providers and the work to be carried out in the workplace. Hence, the Task Force recommends the major chambers of commerce and VPET providers to have closer collaboration on the design and development of VPET programmes (including the curriculum, IA, etc.) such that the learning outcome could fulfill employers’ needs and expectation.
28 Currently, 21 Training Boards have been set up under VTC to provide advice on the manpower demand and supply and training needs in respective industries and make recommendations on how these needs may be best met by relevant programmes. Other VPET providers also have collaboration with industries on programme design and evaluation in general.
6.34 At present, the 21 Training Boards29 under VTC conduct manpower surveys biennially to collect up-to-date information on the manpower situation, to forecast manpower growth and to craft out measures on catering to the demand for respective industries. As there are new industries developing from time to time, the Task Force recommends VTC to regularly review the list of Training Boards to cover emerging industries so that manpower surveys would be conducted to better inform VPET training providers and prospective students of the areas with growing manpower demand.
(ii) Remuneration, Working Conditions and Progression Pathways
6.35 From the earlier stakeholder engagement activities, some stakeholders commented that the remuneration package, working conditions and social status of VPET-related career were important factors for deciding whether to pursue the relevant VPET programmes. Besides, some commented that the progression pathways of some VPET-related career were unclear. In order to attract more youngsters to pursue VPET programmes and join the related industries, the Task Force recommends the major chambers of commerce to encourage their members to devise comprehensive human resource strategy to attract and retain staff, covering the remuneration package, working conditions and progression pathways, etc.
(e) Promotion of Applied Learning
6.36 The Task Force notes that in the 2015-17 cohort, 12 out of 40 ApL courses have been quality assured for recognition under QF (QF Level 3) under a pilot exercise.
EDB will continue the pilot exercise to further explore linking some more ApL courses to QF in due course. The Task Force recommends EDB to encourage course providers to arrange accreditation of more ApL courses under QF where appropriate so that apart from the HKDSE, students completing ApL courses
29 They are Accountancy; Automobile; Banking and Finance Industry; Beauty Care and Hairdressing;
Building and Civil Engineering; Chinese Cuisine Training Institute; E&M Services; Electronics and Telecommunications; Hotel, Catering and Tourism; Import/Export/Wholesale Trades; Insurance; Maritime Services; Mass Communications; Metals; Plastics; Printing and Publishing; Real Estate Services; Retail Trade; Security Services; Textile and Clothing; and Transport Logistics Training Boards.