HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Understanding Vocational Learning and the New Workforce (Part 1)

In his State of the Union Address in January, President Trump said, “… let us invest in workforce development and job training. Let us open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential.” And since then, a lot of experts in politics, higher education, and the U.S. workforce itself are weighing in on this proposition.

Source: Martin Barraud / OJO Images / Getty

Understanding Vocational Learning Beyond Politics

Trump’s call to open more vocational schools and programs received a lot of pushback, especially from democrats like Nancy Pelosi, who said, “Build new vocational schools? With what? Your FY18 budget *cuts* these programs and career technician education …”1 In addition, other experts across the political spectrum in academia are claiming that vocational schools are not the only and final answer when it comes to filling the 6.2 million jobs that are currently unfilled because of mismatched skill sets. However, there are still many experts who are on board with the concept of vocational learning and what it can bring to the workforce.2
But it’s important to note that the concept of vocational learning in the 21st century will evolve in different ways than it has traditionally been understood and that it must be understood outside of politics. Statistics show that companies are investing more heavily in offering vocational learning opportunities, such as apprenticeships and hands-on training opportunities, and that they must in order to succeed and outpace the competition. Vocational learning in the workplace itself will become an economic necessity, and there will probably be fewer vocational schools outside the workplace in the years to come.3

Who Will Need to Be Responsible for Vocational Learning in the 21st Century?

Due to rapid and constant advances in technology, most skill sets now only have a real value for about 5 years in the workforce. And research shows that 65% of the jobs Generation Z will need to fill when they enter the workforce don’t even exist yet. This means that if companies don’t offer some type of vocational development and learning to their employees, they will not succeed long term. They won’t succeed because they’ll never be able to attain the fully trained staff that they require long term, as employees will constantly need to be upskilled and trained in new areas.3
However, according to Pew Research, the most important skills in an ever-changing and ever-automated workforce will be skills that are taught in typical humanities college courses such as curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity. And all learning methods will migrate to online channels, workers will be expected to learn continuously, and experiential learning via apprenticeships and mentorships will increase.
So, in the coming years, expect to see companies offering more apprenticeships and vocational learning experiences. And expect to see more college courses offered online in a more cost-effective and convenient manner for students of all ages and backgrounds.
To be continued in tomorrow’s post …

  1. Trump Pitches Boost to Vocational Education.” Accessed 4/5/2018.
  2. The New York Times.Trump’s Vision for Vocational Education Gets a Tepid Reception.” Accessed 4/5/20158.
  3. 10 Workplace Trends You’ll See In 2018.” Accessed 4/5/2018.