Vocational and professional education and training (VPET) has always been a key driver of manpower development in Hong Kong for meeting the needs of the ever-changing economy. Its history can be traced back to the first Junior Technical School in the early 1930s. Over the years, with various statutory VPET bodies set up, which include the Vocational Training Council (VTC), the Construction Industry Council (CIC), and the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA), VPET has become an integral part of Hong Kong’s education system, covering diploma to post-graduate qualifications.
2. The Government’s policy is to provide multiple and flexible education pathways for young people with different aspirations and abilities. Through VPET, they acquire skills and knowledge for employment and lifelong learning.
The Government has provided subventions and support measures for universities funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC), the VTC, and other post- secondary education and training institutions to run VPET programmes, and provided subsidies for students to pursue such programmes. Moreover, the Government has invested heavily in the development of the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (QF) to facilitate the recognition of vocational and professional qualifications.
3. Hong Kong continues to develop as a knowledge-based, high value- added, and diversified economy, as well as a finance and business service hub.
With more opportunities for students to pursue post-secondary education, VPET might not be perceived as a valued education pathway. Many stakeholders, including students, parents, and teachers, still hold a narrow view of VPET, associating it with relatively lower qualifications and career opportunities involving manual work only.
4. In June 2014, the Government set up a Task Force on Promotion of Vocational Education (the 2014 Task Force) to map out a strategy to promote and raise the public awareness of vocational education and recognition of its value. All 27 recommendations proposed by the 2014 Task Force, along with the three-pronged strategy of (a) rebranding “vocational education and training
(VET)” as “VPET”; (b) strengthening promotion; and (c) sustaining efforts, were accepted by the Government in the 2016 Policy Address, and relevant measures have been put in place.
5. While the public’s overall perception of VPET has been gradually improving, the Government’s tracking surveys conducted in recent years reveal that a sizeable proportion of respondents still did not have sufficient knowledge of the articulation opportunities available through VPET. Students’ interest in pursuing VPET remains at the lower end as VPET is still considered inferior to other academic articulation pathways, for example, degree programmes in universities.
6. In the 2017 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced the setting up of a task force to review and consider enhancements to the promotion of VPET in Hong Kong with a more targeted approach. The Task Force on Promotion of VPET (the Task Force) was established in April 2018, with its membership and terms of reference set out at Annex A.
Principles and Approach
7. As pointed out by the Chief Executive in the 2017 and 2018 Policy Addresses, “talent is the most important element in Hong Kong’s continued development, and education is the key to nurturing talent”. The Task Force fully recognises VPET’s unique value and advantages vis-à-vis conventional academic education in catering for learners’ diverse abilities and potential.
With its orientation towards practical skills training, VPET can equip students with the work-ready skills required to harness the vast opportunities arising from the rapid technological advancement in the 21st century workplace, thereby contributing to Hong Kong’s sustainable development.
8. In the light of the public’s entrenched biased perception of VPET, the Task Force firmly believes that more needs to be done to give the stakeholders a more comprehensive understanding of the latest development of VPET. The Government has a key role to play in confirming and reiterating the significance of VPET as a valued education pathway in addition to conventional academic pathways, so that students can make better informed decisions about pursuing
VPET or other education pathways.
9. When formulating its recommendations, the Task Force adheres to the principle of supporting the development of VPET as a valued education pathway, with distinctive features but qualification levels equivalent to those of the conventional academic pathways. The Task Force has focused on two major directions. On the one hand, the Task Force considers that the Government should strengthen VPET at various levels of the education system, starting from the junior secondary level up to continuing education and training of industry practitioners. Elevating the quality of VPET programmes will help the stakeholders understand the value of VPET and encourage more young people to pursue VPET. On the other hand, the Task Force sees a need to step up the publicity and promotion efforts of VPET-related matters through more innovative approaches, with a view to raising the public awareness of the opportunities and prospects made available by VPET. Only with a combination of enhancement measures for VPET and publicity efforts can VPET be more effectively promoted to the stakeholders.
10. Since its inception, the Task Force has held nine meetings. It has also arranged eight focus group discussions since January 2019 to gauge the stakeholders’ feedback on the following key issues –
(a) the overall strategies on the promotion of VPET;
(b) the promotion of VPET in secondary education, including assisting students in identifying their career aspirations and orientation for life- long learning in specific areas, so that they can select pathways that suit their aspirations;
(c) ways to enhance VPET in post-secondary education and to provide greater incentives for secondary school students to pursue the VPET route; and
(d) building clear articulation pathways in the vocational sector or
industries for school leavers and in-service personnel to progress to the professional level by establishing vocational qualifications under the QF.
11. In May 2019, the Task Force published a consultation document with key observations summarised at Annex B. The Task Force’s major initial recommendations are as follows –
(a) promoting VPET in secondary schools through various channels (such as encouraging Business-School Partnership Programmes (BSPP) partners to provide career exploration activities for junior secondary school students) and through the continued implementation of Applied Learning (ApL);
(b) reviewing the positioning of VPET in the higher education system in Hong Kong, exploring the merits of developing professional vocational qualifications at the degree level (e.g. applied degrees with a primary orientation towards practical skills), and reinforcing the role of the Higher Diploma (HD) qualification as a key VPET pathway at the post- secondary level; and
(c) building clear articulation pathways in the vocational sector or industries for school leavers and in-service personnel to progress to the professional level by establishing vocational qualifications under the QF.
12. During the consultation period from 23 May 2019 to 12 July 2019, the Task Force arranged various engagement activities, including four consultation sessions with the key stakeholders, namely VPET institutions, secondary schools, industry organisations, employers, think tanks, and youth organisations, etc., as well as briefings for the Human Resources Planning Commission, the Education Commission, the Committee on Home-school Cooperation, the Steering Committee on QF Fund, and the Federation of Hong Kong Industries. More than 80 organisations were represented at the consultation sessions and about 40 written submissions were received. The lists of participants at the consultation sessions and respondents to the consultation document are at Annex C and Annex D respectively.
13. The Task Force has also made reference to the experiences of other economies and commissioned the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) to study the international experiences of implementing vocational degrees/applied degrees.
14. In the light of the views received during the consultation period and the international experiences, the Task Force has finalised its recommendations for submission to the Government.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 6
Abbreviations and Glossary 7
Executive Summary and List of Recommendations 10
Chapter 1 VPET: A Global Perspective 16
Chapter 2 Current Landscape of VPET in Hong Kong 26 Chapter 3 Promotion of VPET in Secondary Education 40 Chapter 4 Promotion of VPET in Higher Education 54 Chapter 5 Development of Vocational Progression Pathways 68
Chapter 6 Future Promotion of VPET 73
Chapter 7 Conclusion 78
Annex A Task Force on Promotion of VPET 79
Annex B Key Initial Observations of the Task Force on Promotion of
VPET in its Consultation Document 81
Annex C List of Participants at the Consultation Sessions 84 Annex D List of Respondents to the Consultation Document 87 Annex E Recommendations of the 2014 Task Force on Promotion of
Vocational Education 89
Abbreviations and Glossary
AD Associate Degree
AI Artificial Intelligence ApL Applied Learning
API Announcement in Public Interest
AY Academic Year
BSPP Business-School Partnership Programme B/Ds Bureaux and Departments
Cedefop European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training CIC Construction Industry Council
CITA Clothing Industry Training Authority CLPG Career and Life Planning Grant Common
Common Descriptors for Associate Degree and Higher Diploma Programmes under the New Academic Structure CTAN Corporate Tech Academy Network
DFS Diploma of Foundation Studies DVE Diploma of Vocational Education
DYJ Diploma Yi Jin
ERB Employees Retraining Board
FPTAs Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations
HD Higher Diploma
HKCAAVQ Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications
HKDSE Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education IA Industrial Attachment
IT Information Technology
ITACs Industry Training Advisory Committees LPE Life Planning Education
OECD Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development OLE Other Learning Experiences
PISE Pilot Incentive Scheme to Employers PTAs Parent-Teacher Associations
QESS Quality Enhancement Support Scheme QF Qualifications Framework
QFS Qualifications Framework Secretariat QR Qualifications Register
RPL Recognition of Prior Learning
SCSs Specifications of Competency Standards
SPEF Self-financing Post-secondary Education Fund
SSSDP Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors
STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Study Study on the International Experiences of Implementing Vocational Degrees/Applied Degrees
Task Force Task Force on Promotion of Vocational and Professional Education and Training
TSS Training and Support Scheme
TVET Technical and Vocational Education and Training UGC University Grants Committee
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
VET Vocational Education and Training
VPET Vocational and Professional Education and Training VQP Vocational Qualifications Pathway
VTC Vocational Training Council
WLA Workplace Learning and Assessment 2014 Task
Task Force on Promotion of Vocational Education
Executive Summary and List of Recommendations
The Task Force on Promotion of Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) (the Task Force) was established in April 2018 to review and consider enhancements to the promotion of VPET in Hong Kong with a more targeted approach.
2. The Task Force has taken into account the views of the relevant stakeholders from the industries, professional bodies, industry academies, post- secondary institutions, secondary schools, teachers, parents, and students through focus groups, consultation sessions, and written submissions. It has also made reference to the experiences of other economies and the international experiences of implementing applied degrees.
3. The Task Force recognises that the major challenge for promoting VPET in Hong Kong is to change the public’s perception of VPET as an inferior choice relative to academic articulation pathways as the public fails to appreciate the diverse career opportunities available through VPET. The Task Force notes that overseas economies generally adopt a three-pronged strategy to promote VPET, namely strengthening the relevance of programmes, establishing quality articulation pathways, and raising the public awareness.
4. The Task Force reaffirms VPET’s integral role in Hong Kong’s education system, especially amid the rapidly evolving macro-environment in which innovation and technology changes the manpower requirements. The Task Force believes that VPET is well-poised to equip students with the work skills for the future workplace that will be increasingly technology-augmented.
Therefore, the Government should work closely with VPET institutions and the industries to strengthen and diversify VPET articulation pathways that could cater for the sustainable development of the economy and attract young people to pursue VPET as a preferred choice.
5. The Task Force sees secondary education as a crucial stage where young people are taught to value skills and VPET. The Task Force observes that VPET is embedded within the secondary education curriculum in various forms, including Life Planning Education, Applied Learning (ApL), and Other Learning Experiences. The Task Force sees merit in stepping up collaboration
with industry partners and support for teachers and parents on the basis of these existing platforms so that students are given early exposure to and guidance on the multiple career opportunities available through VPET. In particular, ApL courses and school-based vocational training courses should be enhanced to provide a quality option for students to begin pursuing VPET.
6. The Task Force considers that at the post-secondary level, it is of utmost importance to establish meaningful VPET articulation pathways up to the degree level, with a view to fulfilling students’ aspirations and ensuring parity between VPET and academic routes. The Task Force has given much thought to the idea of introducing applied degrees with a primary orientation towards practical skills, and considers that the higher education system should be suitably adapted to facilitate the development of these programmes with reference to international practices. Moreover, the Task Force acknowledges that the Higher Diploma (HD) plays a key role in the VPET pathway as either a standalone qualification or a stepping stone for further articulation. It warrants a timely review so that it can better serve such a purpose. Apprenticeship training is another aspect of VPET that has been widely promoted worldwide as it offers authentic training of work-ready skills in a real-life setting. The Task Force considers it necessary to step up the work-based learning elements of VPET programmes and integrate them into the core curriculum.
7. The Task Force considers that apart from the formal education system, there is a need to build flexible vocational progression pathways for in-service practitioners. For career advancement, they can attain skill-based qualifications based on their industry experience and part-time training that are underpinned by a robust qualifications framework. Hence, the Task Force recommends reinforcing the role of the Qualifications Framework (QF) in promoting VPET.
8. Lastly, to project a clear message to the public about these recommended measures, the Task Force considers it necessary to better coordinate the VPET publicity efforts under a unified theme that brings out the distinctive benefits of VPET. Apart from association with work skills for the future, VPET should be publicised with an emphasis on its diverse opportunities to appeal to the interests of young people nowadays. More innovative and interactive methods should be adopted, and more large-scale VPET events
9. The Task Force’s recommendations (a total of 18) focus on four areas, namely enhancing promotion in secondary education, enhancing promotion in higher education, developing vocational progression pathways, and strengthening future promotion. The Task Force firmly believes that the recommendations, if implemented, will go a long way towards strengthening the VPET ecosystem in Hong Kong and contributing to our sustainable development.
List of Recommendations
1. Facing the challenges in the 21st century, the education system needs to nurture applied skills to integrate different knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes. The VPET pathways should be expanded and enriched to offer more programmes with greater flexibility as well as an emphasis on application and industry input, while underpinned by a robust qualifications system, with a view to enabling young people to acquire professional work skills, applied knowledge in innovation and technology, as well as critical soft skills for career progression in the new digital age.
Promotion of VPET in Secondary Education
2. To improve the overall quality of VPET programmes and activities in secondary schools through the existing platforms, including the Business- School-Partnership Programme, by strengthening coordination, fostering wider industry collaboration, and formulating an incentive mechanism for industry partners.
3. To encourage more industry partners to provide VPET-related activities for junior secondary students and involve more teachers and parents in these activities through the existing platforms.
4. To provide external advisory service on VPET for teachers and career masters of secondary schools under a pilot scheme to offer one-stop professional service for teachers on a wide array of issues pertaining to VPET, including on-demand consultation service, an online teachers’ kit,
professional development workshops, on-site VPET activities for students, and consolidation of related online resources.
5. To encourage parent-teacher associations (PTAs) and federations of PTAs (FPTAs) to organise more VPET promotion activities at the school and/or district level, making good use of the increased funding for parent education programmes or activities which is available to PTAs and FPTAs, starting from the 2019/20 school year.
6. To continue the Government’s efforts to promote VPET through ApL, by strengthening the engagement of industrial partners, enhancing workplace experience, and piloting the development of VPET learning pathways starting with ApL courses and providing articulation opportunities to HD and top-up degree programmes.
7. To strengthen support for secondary schools to develop school-based vocational training courses recognised under the QF by offering sharing sessions, advice, and facilitation in the accreditation process.
Promotion of VPET in Higher Education
8. To reiterate the value and positioning of VPET in higher education, and provide a clearly defined and differentiated VPET pathway from the academic route while upholding their parity in terms of both quality and recognition.
9. To explore ways to facilitate the development of applied degrees at the Bachelor’s degree level, by ensuring that the qualifications systems and other infrastructure can accommodate the future development of applied degrees which are characterised by the following features: a qualifications level at QF Level 5; flexible admission requirements; an applied focus and substantial work-based learning element in the curriculum; and strong industry involvement and recognition. A pilot project could be implemented for selected VPET programme areas to test the modifications required to better support the development of applied degrees.
10. As part of the sub-degree review, to conduct a comprehensive review on
the HD qualification, with a view to reinforcing its role as a key VPET pathway at the post-secondary level. The review should cover the positioning of HD in the higher education system; possible enhancements to the programme structure and curriculum; modes of teaching and learning;
admission requirements; a mechanism for industry involvement; articulation to the proposed applied degrees; and recognition as an exit qualification.
11. To conduct a comprehensive review on the Training and Support Scheme implemented by the Vocational Training Council (VTC) (also known as the VTC Earn and Learn Scheme) to enhance apprenticeship training, including increasing incentives for employers, strengthening its dual-track learning mode, and enhancing its workplace learning and assessment.
12. To formulate more robust policies to encourage, coordinate, support, and facilitate the post-secondary education sector, including the self- financing post-secondary institutions, to incorporate work-based learning and assessment in their VPET programmes at both the sub-degree and degree levels through close partnership with industries, including considering extending the Pilot Incentive Scheme to Employers to include institutions other than the VTC.
Development of Vocational Progression Pathways
13. To explore the development of a vocational route whereby professional skill-based vocational qualifications can be acquired flexibly through an appropriate combination of vocational training at schools, workplace assessment, or in-service training, and duly recognised under the QF in close partnership with the industries. As a start, the Government should explore with relevant industries, regulatory and professional bodies, and training institutions how to develop professional pathways in selected industries.
14. To reaffirm the QF’s role in supporting VPET development by encouraging more stakeholders, including Government departments and industry partners, to adopt the QF.
15. To consider expanding the Pilot Subsidy Scheme for Students of
Professional Part-time Programmes to include students pursuing a wider range of dedicated part-time programmes, with a view to encouraging working adults to pursue higher VPET qualifications.
Future Promotion of VPET
16. To formulate a coherent message in the publicity of VPET in order to highlight VPET’s association with work skills for the future. The message should be able to convey the diversity and prospects of VPET as well as its appeal to the younger generation.
17. To adopt a more innovative, targeted, and coordinated approach in the publicity on VPET with a view to raising the public awareness, including establishing a standing steering committee to oversee the overall VPET promotion strategy, promoting success stories of past VPET students, enhancing the transparency of VPET-related statistics and articulation opportunities, and continuing to conduct tracking surveys on key stakeholders’ attitudes towards VPET in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the Government’s initiatives in promoting VPET.
18. To continue supporting the VTC and other VPET bodies organising and participating in large-scale VPET events on a regular basis, including the VPET International Conference and WorldSkills Hong Kong Competition and Carnival in 2020, to raise the public awareness and understanding of the significance of professional skills.
VPET: A Global Perspective
Definition of VPET
1.1. All around the world, education has been recognised as the key thrust for the sustainable development of the economy. No matter what the level of development or the economic structure is, suitably trained talent is indispensable for maintaining the daily operation and ways of life in an economy. In this light, VPET plays an important role in equipping the emerging workforce with the requisite skills and abilities for employment.
1.2. While its significance is well recognised worldwide, there does not seem to be a universally agreed terminology nor definition for VPET. In different contexts, the field of education that is currently covered by VPET in Hong Kong has been given various names, including but not limited to
“vocational education”, “technical education”, “workplace education”, etc.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) decided in its World Congress on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to use the term “TVET”, which could most comprehensively describe the field. According to the UNESCO, “TVET” is understood as “comprising education, training and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services and livelihoods”.
1.3. On the other hand, the European Commission, another staunch advocate for VPET, through its European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop), has adopted the term “VET”, which is defined as “a key element of lifelong learning systems, which equip citizens with knowledge, skills and competences required in particular occupations and on the labour market”.
Separately, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) adopts the term “VET”, with the definition of “education and training programmes designed for, and typically leading to, a particular job or type of job, typically involving practical training as well as the learning of relevant theory”. The term “VET” has also been widely used in a host of other economies, including Australia, Switzerland, and previously Hong Kong.
1.4. Notwithstanding the varied nomenclature and definitions in different places, it is evident that the core elements of VPET, or equivalent, are threefold.
Firstly, VPET has an applied nature with a focus on preparing students for employment in particular occupations in the labour market, which is why VPET programmes are commonly designed and offered under a close partnership between institutions and industries. Secondly, VPET emphasises the mastery of relevant skills, rather than deepening knowledge in a theoretical academic discipline. This can be reflected in the mode of teaching and learning for VPET programmes which emphasises practicums and on-the-job training/internship elements. Lastly and most importantly, VPET is an evolving concept without a rigid restriction in scope, which continuously evolves in response to the changing needs of the economy. Over the past decades, VPET has transformed itself from originally being confined to technical training in preparation for work in “blue collar” crafts and trades, to covering post-secondary levels of education and equipping students with both work-ready technical skills and soft competence that can cater for the demands of the new economy.
1.5. In line with the aforementioned key characteristics of VPET, on the advice of the 2014 Task Force, the Government rebranded “VET” to “VPET” in Hong Kong in 2016 with a widened scope to cover “programmes of up to degree level with a high percentage of curriculum consisting of specialised contents in vocational skills or professional knowledge”. Since then, the Government and different VPET institutions have been using the term “VPET” in all promotional and publicity materials. The term “VPET” can well embody the provision of education and training at all educational levels to equip learners with necessary practical skills, attitude, and knowledge for their effective performance in a wide range of relevant professions or industries.
Challenges and Opportunities for VPET in the Digital Age
1.6. With the wave of innovation and technology sweeping through the world, advanced technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning are undergoing rapid development and revolutionising the traditional industry structure and job requirements all around the world. As a small open economy, Hong Kong is no exception to this global trend.
1.7. In recent years, there has been a growing spotlight on the impact of technological advancement on the labour market. While there has yet to be an international consensus on the extent of the impact, it can be certain that job functions and requirements will be shifted. The World Economic Forum projected that the accelerating adoption of technology will reshape the division of labour between humans and machines, as machines become increasingly capable of accomplishing not only routine manual tasks but also tasks involving cognitive capabilities1 . It is anticipated that 42 of the core working skills involved in an average job will have differed in a few years’ time from 2018 to 2022. Seminal research conducted by an international institute2 estimated that, at the present demonstrated technology level, some 49 of work tasks in the global economy can be potentially automated. The exact percentage differs by the nature of the work tasks, with more routine and physical tasks facing higher automation potential. While a sizeable proportion of the working population will be unavoidably displaced in the process, automation is expected to contribute to the creation of numerous new types of technology-augmented jobs.
1.8. Another trend observed in recent years is the emergence of the “gig economy” enabled by digitalisation and increased work mobility. The “gig economy” is characterised by the prevalence of temporary work positions and contracting with independent freelancers for short-term engagements in specific tasks, commonly performed through online platforms. There is an estimated 20-30 of the working population in the United States and major European Union countries engaged in independent work3. In the United Kingdom alone, the number of highly skilled freelancers increased by 47 between 2008 and 2018, spanning a wide range of industries and occupations4. The contributions of the “gig economy” to the overall economy is projected to continue rising as more and more facilitating platforms are developed with the latest technologies.
1 World Economic Forum (2018), The Future of Jobs Report 2018, https://www.weforum.org/reports/the- future-of-jobs-report-2018.
2 McKinsey Global Institute (2017), A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/featured 20insights/Digital 20Disruption/Harnessing 20 automation 20for 20a 20future 20that 20works/MGI-A-future-that-works-Executive-summary.ashx.
3 McKinsey Global Institute (2016), Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured 20Insights/Employment 20and 20Growth/Ind ependent 20work 20Choice 20necessity 20and 20the 20gig 20economy/Independent-Work-Choi ce-necessity-and-the-gig-economy-Executive-Summary.ashx.
4 The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (2019), Self-employment in the Modern Economy: Exploring the Rise of Self-employment in the Last Decade, https://www.ipse.co.uk/resource/self- employment-in-the-modern-economy.html.
1.9. In this connection, it would be of paramount importance to prepare workers for the threats and opportunities arising in the digital age. The local labour force should be well equipped with both job-ready professional skills and applied knowledge, as well as critical soft skills, including problem solving, adaptability, and creativity. They should also possess an adequate level of digital literacy to work coherently in an increasingly automated environment.
Should they opt to participate in the “gig economy”, the possession of practical skills is undoubtedly an essential prerequisite. As such, the education system in the 21st century needs to nurture in young people the applied skills to integrate different knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes.
1.10. The authorities around the globe acknowledge that an abundant pool of skilled talent is fundamental to sustaining the competitiveness and capacity of the economies in driving growth and innovation amid the digital transformation.
To this end, VPET could provide students and practitioners with the integrated experience of practical learning at work, application of new and emerging technologies to solve real-life problems, as well as acquisition of generic skills and knowledge for excelling in the changing workplace. While VPET has a central role to play, it is often marginalised in policymaking and overshadowed by the focus on general academic education. Thus, these economies have been placing a stronger emphasis on the development of VPET to cater for the evolving demands for skilled manpower. In particular, a number of major intergovernmental and supranational organisations, namely the UNESCO, OECD, and European Commission, have set out their strategies and recommended best practices on VPET5, which can serve as useful references for Hong Kong. Their VPET strategies can be generalised as follows –
(a) strengthening the relevance of VPET programmes – As synthesised by the OECD in its Learning for Jobs6 and Skills Beyond School7 reports, a successful VPET system should feature close links with labour market actors in the development, updating, and delivery of programmes on the skills-in-demand. In particular, the VPET mechanism should systematically integrate quality assured work-based
5 While different places may have different taxonomies for VPET, the standardised term “VPET” is used throughout this report to ensure consistency.
6 OECD (2010), Learning for Jobs, OECD Reviews of VET, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264087460-en.
7 OECD (2014), Skills beyond School: Synthesis Report, OECD Reviews of VET, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264214682-en.
learning elements to maximise the synergy between school and workplace learning in training students’ hard and soft skills. Similarly, the UNESCO recommended that governments foster effective partnerships8 and formalise institutions to suitably involve relevant stakeholders in the governance of the VPET system9. In addition to launching a Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills and supporting apprenticeships, the European Commission also repositioned VPET as the hybrid training of both transversal and professional competences10, especially developing students’ digital and innovation abilities, with a view to not only preparing them for existing jobs, but also future employment and job creation11.
(b) establishing quality and flexible VPET progression pathways – The European Riga Conclusions12 set out one of the key deliverables to promoting VPET as an attractive and valued option through developing more flexible and permeable training pathways. In addition, the UNESCO recommended that such pathways should accommodate both horizontal and vertical progression of the vocational or academic routes through flexible admission procedures as well as recognition of prior learning underpinned by a well-established qualifications framework, with a view to satisfying students’ aspirations for articulation to higher qualifications. Moreover, the OECD pointed out that the upskilling needs of adult learners should be met as well through the provision of flexible modes of study, including part-time and modular arrangements.
(c) raising the awareness of VPET – To improve the image of VPET as a genuine first choice, the European Commission launched the annual European Vocational Skills Week campaign in 2016 to showcase the opportunities and success stories of VPET to the public. Specifically targeting prospective VPET students, the UNESCO recognised that
8 UNESCO (2016), Strategy for TVET (2016-2021), https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245239.
9 UNESCO (2015), Recommendation concerning TVET, http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php- URL_ID=49355&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.
10 European Commission (2018), Opinion of the Advisory Committee on Vocational Training on the Future of VET Post 2020, https://ec.europa.eu/social/BlobServlet?docId=20479&langId=en.
11 European Commission (2016), A New Skills Agenda for Europe: Working Together to Strengthen Human Capital, Employability and Competitiveness, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?
12 European Commission (2016), The Riga Conclusions: European Cooperation in VET 2015-2020, https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=738&langId=en&pubId=7915&furtherPubs=yes.
teachers might lack the relevant workplace experience and knowledge about VPET pathways to provide unbiased and objective career advice to students, especially with the increasing complexity of further education pathway choices. Hence, it was crucial to step up professional training for teachers and foster tighter business-school partnerships to support career guidance for students. In this connection, the OECD recommended the use of latest web and mobile technologies to disseminate clear information on VPET pathways so as to better inform students’ decision making.
1.11. Using these three-pronged strategies, worldwide economies have been reviewing their respective VPET systems and have promulgated specific measures to keep up-to-date with the recent developments in the wider economy.
The report of the 2014 Task Force captured a useful snapshot overview of the various VPET systems implemented around the world, which largely remain valid as of today. On that basis, the following paragraphs highlight some of the major developments in VPET promotion in places outside Hong Kong.
(a) Strengthening the Relevance of VPET Programmes
1.12. On the engagement of industry partners, the Reform of Vocational Education put forward by the New Zealand Government in July 2019 proposed the establishment of industry-governed Workforce Development Councils to put industry in charge of the development of vocational programmes to ensure their relevance to the world of work13. Similar pilot Skills Organisations will be set up in Australia in key industries to strengthen industry leadership in the national training system, as part of the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow package announced in April 201914 . In Finland, a working group was established with the ambit of strengthening cooperation between VPET providers, other education institutions, and employers in 201915.
13 New Zealand Government (2019), A Unified System for All Vocational Education: Reform of Vocational Education, https://conversation.education.govt.nz/assets/RoVE/AoC/A-unified-system-for-all-vocational- education.pdf.
14 Australian Government (2019), Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow, https://www.employment.gov.au/delivering-skills-today-and-tomorrow.
15 European Commission (2019), National Reforms in VET and Adult Learning: Finland, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-vocational-education-and-tra ining-and-adult-learning-21_en.
1.13. Regarding work-based learning, the Finnish VET reform that entered into force in January 2018 comprised a new versatile learning model to facilitate work-based learning and assessment. On the other hand, one of the objectives of the Implementation Plan on National Vocational Education Reform (國家職 業教育改革實施方案)16 promulgated in Mainland China in January 2019 was to foster the integration of vocational schools with industries to offer work-based training with reference from the dual-track mode. Other economies, including Australia, England17 and France18 , have also stepped up their support for apprenticeship training through additional funding and incentives for employers.
1.14. To renew the VPET curriculum to address the growing demand for emerging skills in the labour market, Germany launched the pilot project VET 4.0 in February 2016, which included, inter alia, the implementation of digital transformation through VPET with the tripartite support of the government, education, and industry sectors19 . The mission statement on VPET 2030 adopted by Switzerland in December 2018 also accorded priority to pioneering digital transformation through VPET with a funding initiative, digitalinform.swiss20.
1.15. Other than engaging industry partners on a programme or industry level, economies have also established formal institutions to incorporate relevant stakeholders’ views in the formulation of VPET policies. Notable examples included the National Skills Commission in Australia and the National Vocational Education Steering Committee (國家職業教育指導諮詢委員會) in Mainland China.
16 State Council of the People’s Republic of China (2019), The Notice by the State Council on the Issuance of the Implementation Plan on National Vocational Education Reform, http://big5.www.gov.cn/
17 European Commission (2019), National Reforms in VET and Adult Learning: United Kingdom - England, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-vocational-education-and-train ing-and-adult-learning-75_en.
18 European Commission (2019), National Reforms in VET and Adult Learning: France, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-vocational-education-and-train ing-and-adult-learning-23_en.
19 Cedefop (2017), Developments in VET Policy in 2015-17: Germany, https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/germany_-_vet_policy_developments.pdf.
20 European Commission (2019), National Reforms in VET and Adult Learning: Switzerland, https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/national-policies/eurydice/content/national-reforms-vocational-education-and- training-and-adult-learning-89_en.
(b) Establishing Quality and Flexible VPET Progression Pathways
1.16. Different economies have restructured the elements of their education systems to provide more structured and agile articulation pathways for VPET students to develop their own unique learning and career paths based on their aptitudes and goals. In England, a new T Levels will be introduced between 2020 and 2022 to consolidate the various technical qualifications at the senior secondary level with new career-focused pathways that are on an equal footing with the academically-oriented A Levels qualification. Graduates of the T Levels can proceed to skilled employment or pursue higher technical education and training. New Institutes of Technology have also been established from September 2019 to specialise in delivering higher technical education at the sub-degree level with a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects to allow progression of T Levels or A Levels graduates as well as adult learners. For Mainland China, selected higher education institutions offering degree level programmes (普通本科高等學校) are to be transformed into institutions with an applied focus (應用型本科高校)21 by 2022. In addition, the “1+X” model, where students can acquire a number of occupational skills certificates in addition to an academic qualification, has been implemented on a pilot basis covering 20 skills areas with manpower demand in these institutions, thus extending the VPET route to the degree level22. The admission criteria for higher vocational education will also be expanded to incorporate alternative qualifications other than solely accepting entrance through the academic route of GaoKao (高考).
1.17. Apart from establishing VPET pathways to the tertiary level, overseas economies have acknowledged the training needs of working adults for career advancement. Under the SkillsFuture initiative, the Singapore government has introduced more subsidised skill-based modular courses at post-secondary
education institutions at the Diploma level and above to support the
21 Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (2019), The Situation Report on Supporting the Development of Institutions with an Applied Focus, http://www.moe.gov.cn/fbh/live/2019/50294/
22 Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (2019), The Notice by Four Departments including the Ministry of Education on the Issuance of the Pilot Plan on the Implementation of “Academic Certificate + Several Vocational Skills Level Certificates” System, http://www.moe.gov.cn/srcsite/
skills development of mid-career individuals23 . In Germany, legislation (Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz) was passed in 2016 to encourage skilled workers to participate in further training to acquire the qualifications of a master craftsperson or equivalent.
1.18. With regard to enhancing recognition of prior learning, the German ValiKom project has been operated since 2015 to benchmark the skills and competences of in-service practitioners acquired through work but without formal qualifications. Criteria and procedures to incorporate non-formal learning into the German qualifications framework are also being developed.
Separately, Mainland China is expediting the establishment of a national credit bank to facilitate credit accumulation and transfer.
(c) Raising the Awareness of VPET
1.19. To improve the public perception of VPET, overseas economies have launched large-scale promotional campaigns through various media channels.
Many of these campaigns are centred around a memorable theme to publicise the benefits of VPET. For instance, Germany conceived the “Vocational Training – Practically Unbeatable” campaign to position dual-track training as a realistic and attractive choice and England launched the “Get In Go Far”
campaign to promote apprenticeships24 . In Finland, dedicated funding was allocated to projects that improve the attractiveness of VPET, prioritising those adopting innovative communication channels and targeting new audience groups.
1.20. Apart from mass promotion, targeted appeal to younger students before their choice of articulation pathways is equally, if not more, important.
Under the Act for the Freedom to Choose One’s Future Career promulgated by the French government in September 2018, information sessions were organised for lower and upper secondary students to find out more about the different professions available through the VPET route. Career guidance and coaching at school were also reinforced through professional training development programmes for teachers. For Mainland China, vocational institutions were
23 Singapore Government (2015), Factsheet on SkillsFuture, https://www.mom.gov.sg/- /media/mom/documents/speeches/2015/factsheet-on-skillsfuture.pdf?la=en&hash=07744DA012B1F42A40 8AEEB82E987469.
24 Cedefop (2017), Developments in VET Policy in 2015-17: United Kingdom (England), https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/united_kingdom_england_-_vet_policy_developments.pdf.
encouraged to collaborate with primary and secondary schools to offer early insights for students into VPET pathways.
1.21. Lastly, schools are encouraged to reach out to industry partners to offer career exposure programmes to stimulate students’ interests in pursuing VPET. England launched the Give Yourself the Edge Toolkit in 2017 to help schools form and deepen partnerships with enterprises through workplace placements for teachers, office tours, and employer talks at schools. A Careers and Enterprise Fund was also created in 2016 to incentivise businesses and organisations to trial career-related activities for young people between the age of 11 and 18. On the other hand, some economies introduced taster VPET programmes into their secondary curriculum, offering a head start for participating students in the VPET route. As part of the Career Kick-start Strategy launched in Ontario, Canada in 201725, the Specialist High Skills Major Programme, which offers extended learning programmes in specific economic sectors with industry recognised certification for senior secondary students to explore their career goals, was extended to benefit more students interested in pursuing VPET.
1.22. While different economies have their own unique education systems and varying economic structures, it is evident from the preceding synopsis that their VPET policy measures often adhere to similar principles. We are facing the same challenge that VPET is often perceived as an inferior choice. We are also competing in the same global arena, where technological advancement will pose challenges and open up new development avenues for the working population. To sustain Hong Kong’s status as one of the most internationally competitive economies and a regional talent hub, more should be done to strengthen VPET as an elemental pillar in our education system, and these international experiences can serve as a valuable reference point as we chart the way forward for VPET in Hong Kong.
25 Ontario Government (2017), Ontario Boosting On-the-job Learning Opportunities for Students, https://news.ontario.ca/mof/en/2017/04/ontario-boosting-on-the-job-learning-opportunities-for-students.ht ml.
Current Landscape of VPET in Hong Kong
Historical Development of the VPET Sector
2.1. The formal development of VPET in Hong Kong can be traced back to the establishment of the first Junior Technical School and the Government Trade School by the Government in 1932 and 1937 respectively. Yet, even long before then, VPET had taken place in an informal or private setting in the community, with the opening of a host of technical institutes and industrial colleges in the early 1900s. This was followed by the setting up of a range of prevocational schools, technical institutes, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic in the 1970s. A number of statutory VPET institutions, including the then Construction Industry Training Authority and the Clothing Industry Training Authority (CITA), were also established around the time to address the specific training needs of the respective trades.
2.2. As VPET has gradually gained prominence over the years as an integral part of Hong Kong’s education system running parallel to the academic stream, the Government established the VTC under the VTC Ordinance (Cap. 1130) as a government-funded statutory body to provide comprehensive technical education and industrial training in Hong Kong in 1982. Since then, the VTC has led the development of VPET with a holistic and coordinated approach while catering for the structural changes of the economy from manufacturing-based to service- and knowledge-based. For instance, the VTC has extended the provision of VPET to the post-secondary level with upgraded skill contents as well as strengthened support for lifelong learning and developed additional progression pathways for students and in-service practitioners. Meanwhile, following the implementation of education reform in the 1990s, former prevocational schools and secondary technical schools have progressively repositioned themselves as generic grammar secondary schools and have been less prominent in terms of VPET provision in Hong Kong.
2.3. Over the years, the Government has been committed to providing quality, flexible, and diversified study pathways with multiple entry and exit points for young people with diverse aspirations and abilities. At the same time, the business sector needs a life-long learning workforce with adequate
knowledge and skills to contribute to the sustainable development of Hong Kong and its economy. As such, VPET plays a pivotal role in broadening the learning opportunities for young people and working adults as well as nurturing the requisite human capital for Hong Kong’s development. An overview of the multiple articulation pathways attainable via both vocational and academic routes under the prevailing education system in Hong Kong is illustrated in Chart 2.1 below.
Chart 2.1 Overview of Vocational and Academic Articulation Pathway under the Prevailing Education System in Hong Kong
2.4. As evident from Chart 2.1 above, VPET is provided at different levels of the education system, offering diploma to degree qualifications and beyond.
This is supported by a vibrant VPET sector comprising a wide variety of programme providers, including the UGC-funded universities, post-secondary education and training institutions, statutory bodies (including the VTC, CIC,
CITA, and Employees Retraining Board (ERB)), as well as the growing sector of corporate academies (which are in-house training arms of industry corporations), such as the MTR Academy and Hong Kong International Aviation Academy.
2.5. In Hong Kong, we have in place the QF, a credible qualifications system which enables integration of education and vocational training as well as recognition of skills and experiences. The QF can provide a solid foundation for establishing vocational and professional articulation pathways to enhance the continuous development of VPET in Hong Kong.
2.6. The Government introduced the QF in 2008, which is a seven-level hierarchy embracing qualifications in the academic, vocational, professional, and continuing education sectors, as illustrated in Chart 2.2 below. QF- recognised VPET qualifications are quality assured and level-rated in accordance with well-defined standards. The QF also provides a common platform that facilitates articulation of academic and vocational qualifications across different subject areas, sectors, and levels. It serves as an important foundation underpinning our VPET system, rendering assessment and comparison of achievements within the vocational route and between the vocational and academic routes possible, thereby projecting a professional image of VPET. At present, over 8 000 academic and vocational qualifications, including VPET qualifications, are recognised under the QF and registered on the Qualifications Register (QR).
Chart 2.2 Seven-level hierarchy under the QF
2.7. Under the QF, Specifications of Competency Standards (SCSs) are drawn up by different Industry Training Advisory Committees (ITACs), which set out the skills, knowledge, and outcome standards required of employees in different functional areas of the respective sectors, and provide a basis for course providers to design training courses to meet the needs of the sectors. The use of QF credits and the policy and principles for credit accumulation and transfer
introduced under the QF have also further enhanced articulation among qualifications from different sectors.
VPET in the Education System
(a) VPET at the Secondary Level
2.8. Under the prevailing secondary education system, students are progressively exposed to career and VPET-related experiences through life-wide learning opportunities as well as the school curriculum. Life Planning Education (LPE) plays a significant role at schools in fostering students’ self- understanding, personal planning, goal setting, reflective thinking, and articulation to progression pathways. LPE consists of three key elements, namely, self-understanding and development, career exploration, and career planning and management.
2.9. At the senior secondary level, students’ understanding of VPET is enhanced through a variety of learning opportunities. ApL courses, which are subjects with stronger elements of practical learning linked to broad professional and vocational fields, are introduced as Category B elective subjects of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination. In gist, ApL is an integral component in the senior secondary curriculum for complementing other subjects and for achieving the learning goals. Currently, most ApL courses are registered on the QR as certificate programmes at QF Level 3. In addition to the HKDSE qualification, students will obtain QF certificates issued by course providers upon successful completion of these ApL courses. In the 2018/19 academic year (AY), around 350 secondary schools offered a total of 36 ApL courses for about 4 600 students in Secondary 5.
2.10. On the other hand, career-related experiences are embedded in the Other Learning Experiences (OLE) activities, which are an integral part of the senior secondary curriculum implemented since 2009. OLE are accessible by all senior secondary students to complement their learning in core and elective subjects in order to nurture their all-rounded development and positive values.
Through OLE, various career-related experiences are provided for students to enhance and update their knowledge about the world of work, strengthen their
work ethics, and facilitate their decision making as well as personal career planning. VPET may be introduced to students as an articulation choice through relevant career-related experiences.
(b) VPET at the Post-secondary Level
2.11. At the sub-degree level (QF Level 4), there are currently 23 local post- secondary institutions26 providing sub-degree programmes, and 65 of some 370 full-time sub-degree programmes offered in the 2019/20 AY are HD programmes27, making available nearly 19 000 intake places (about two-thirds of the total sub-degree intake places). According to the Common Descriptors for Associate Degree (AD) and HD Programmes under the New Academic Structure (the Common Descriptors)28, an HD programme’s curriculum should consist of at least 60 specialised contents (e.g. learning related to concentrations, disciplines and professions, vocational skills, etc.). HD programmes seek to enable students to acquire the appropriate attitude, knowledge, and skills to support their initial employment at the para-professional level.
2.12. At the undergraduate level (QF Level 5), many higher education institutions are offering degree programmes with a strong professional/vocational element. Examples include Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy, etc. Moreover, articulation opportunities to senior year places of UGC-funded undergraduate programmes and top-up degree programmes in the self-financing sector are available to sub- degree graduates, offering a total of about 14 000 places per year.
(c) Other VPET Programmes
2.13. Apart from the above, there is a wide array of full-time and part-time certificate and diploma programmes (equivalent to QF Levels 2 and 3), primarily
26 Apart from local post-secondary institutions, some other providers such as private hospitals offer HD programmes such as HD in General Nursing.
27 Examples include HD in Airfreight Management and Global Logistics, HD in International Hospitality and Tourism Management, etc.
28 The Common Descriptors was drawn up by the Education Bureau, the HKCAAVQ, and the Joint Quality Review Committee in 2010, accessible at https://www.cspe.edu.hk/resources/pdf/en/Updated 20Revised 20Common 20Descriptors 20for 20Associate 20Degree 20and 20Higher 20Diploma 20Progra mmes 20under 20the 20New 20Academic 20Structure 20(Updated 20in 20February 202017) 20UPDATED.pdf.
targeting young people that have completed Secondary 3 to 6, including the Diploma of Vocational Education (DVE), Diploma of Foundation Studies (DFS) programmes, and apprenticeship schemes provided by the VTC as well as Diploma Yi Jin (DYJ) programmes offered by different institutions. Working adults who wish to acquire training or formal qualifications may also articulate using these alternative pathways. In addition, different training providers offer a range of Professional Certificate and Diploma programmes29 with strong vocational content in specific disciplines, many of which are recognised under the QF at Levels 3 to 5, for in-service practitioners to upskill and pursue higher qualifications for career advancement.
Development of VPET outside the Education Sector
2.14. In recent years, witnessing their intensifying demand for skilled manpower and the Government’s enhanced promotion of VPET, more industries have played a more proactive role in promoting VPET through partnerships with education and training institutions in developing programmes for specific sectors/professions. For example, the Hong Kong and China Gas Company Limited and CLP Power Hong Kong have partnered with the VTC to offer more specialised training in nurturing professionals for their respective industries30. These joint programmes enable students to keep abreast of the latest industry knowledge and trends through theoretical learning and practice provided by the partner companies. The rising prominence of corporate academies also plays a significant role in offering practical training to nurture more high-calibre and professional talents for their respective trades. In September 2018, the
Corporate Tech Academy Network (CTAN) was established with six major corporate academies31 as founding members to promote VPET for the
development of a skilled and qualified professional/technical workforce supporting the sustainable growth, life-long learning culture, and youth engagement in Hong Kong.
29 Examples include Professional Certificate in Fashion Sportswear and Bodywear Design as well as Professional Diploma in Plumbing Engineering for Building Services offered by the VTC, Professional Diploma in Property Management offered by the Caritas Bianchi College of Careers, etc.
30 Examples include Professional Diploma in Gas Engineering and Professional Diploma in Power Engineering.
31 The six founding members of CTAN include CLP Power Academy, Hong Kong International Aviation Academy, Hong Kong Institute of Construction, HKPC Academy, MTR Academy, and Towngas Engineering Academy.
2.15. On the QF front, notable progress has been made by companies and government departments in implementing the QF in recruitment and training.
Their involvement has underscored the importance of VPET in manpower development in Hong Kong, and also helped to raise students’ awareness of the employment prospects and avenues for further education available through VPET. Furthermore, there has also been a growing trend for employers, especially those in the property management, retail, catering, banking, and insurance industries, to develop QF-recognised in-house training programmes to suit the needs of particular occupations or positions.
Implementation of Recommendations of the 2014 Task Force
2.16. The Government set up the 2014 Task Force to map out a strategy to promote vocational education and raise the public awareness of vocational education and recognition of its value. Its report was submitted to the Government in July 2015, proposing a three-pronged strategy with a total of 27 recommendations. The three-pronged strategy comprised (a) rebranding VET;
(b) strengthening promotion; and (c) sustaining efforts.
2.17. As announced in the 2016 Policy Address, the Government accepted all the recommendations. The major progress of implementing the recommendations is summarised as follows –
(a) rebranded VET to VPET, covering programmes up to the degree level with a high percentage of the curriculum consisting of specialised contents in vocational skills or professional knowledge;
(b) carried out a series of publicity campaign for the promotion of the professional image of VPET;
(c) fully subsidised ApL courses at the senior secondary level starting from the 2016/17 AY, with a view to encouraging more schools to offer ApL courses so that more students with interests in VPET could benefit from the courses;
(d) extended the Pilot Training and Support Scheme for two more cohorts