VET trainers: recognising workload beyond “human capital models”

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Guided readings and extracts:

  • The Quality and Utilization of Technical Education Trainers in Kenya, Moses W. Ngware, Egerton University, Fredrick Muyia Nafukho, University of Arkansas.
  • Guiding principles on professional development of trainers in vocational education and training, European Union.

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Critics of the human capital paradigm argue against education as having no direct relationship with occupation, productivity, or commensurate income (Senanu, 1996). For instance, the fallacy of this relationship can be seen in the fact that it is not necessarily the most trained or educated who earn the highest incomes in most developing countries.

The European Union has released Guiding principles on professional development of trainers in vocational education and training (52 pages). The focus is on PD for in-company trainers, remembering that in-company trainers often work with apprentices and other recent school leavers.

If 52 pages seems like too many, you could try the six page summary with the engaging title of EU, be proud of your trainers: supporting those who train for improving skills, employment and competitiveness.

At least four groups of competences are considered important to a different extent for trainers in VET, including those who train in companies (Cedefop, 2013b):

Competences related to their specific technical domain, sector.

Competences related to their specific technical domain, sector. There is no common approach to defining such competences; most examples imply that trainers possess a qualification in a specific field in which they train. Strong subjectspecific or vocational skills are usually one of the reasons why employees are assigned to train apprentices or other staff in a company. Knowing developments in the industry and sector is important for in-company trainer capacity to help companies to look forward, identify emerging needs and address future challenges;

Competences related to serving a company’s strategy and improving its competitiveness through training

Competences related to serving a company’s strategy and improving its competitiveness through training. Trainers should know very well their company’s core business, structure, activities, working methods, processes and strategies as well as its skills needs and gaps. It should be noted though that awareness of company strategy can mostly be acquired internally. More ways to develop company-related competences should be explored in the future;

Pedagogical/didactical competence

Pedagogical/didactical competence (i.e., the function and work of a trainer and the theory and practical application of teaching and learning) , training-related competences. In most cases, trainers are expected to have a good command of pedagogy, including some proof of competence or relevant training, theory of learning and/or understand teaching and learning approaches.

When training adults it is possibly more current to speak of Andragogical theory – about how adults learn http://tinyurl.com/qa2x6bv

Depending on their responsibilities, they can be expected to know how to design training programmes and courses and carry out training needs analysis. The continuing shift towards learning outcomes in training requires trainers to be aware of this approach and able to apply it in their work. Optionally, trainers can be expected to design or develop training materials.

Pedagogical competence also includes skills related to practical implementation of training: time planning, distribution of content, creating a positive and inclusive learning environment, observing and understanding group dynamics, group management, and selecting methods appropriate to specific learner abilities and needs, including special education needs.

Assessment of learner progress and learning outcomes is growing in importance and is becoming an important part of trainers’ work. Trainers should be aware of summative and formative assessment methods, able to choose the most appropriate assessment methods for the training delivered and learning objectives, as well as provide feedback to learners on their progress and develop further learning;

Transversal competences that help trainers support the learning process

Transversal competences that help trainers support the learning process (for example, social and interpersonal competences, conflict management, multicultural awareness, critical thinking skills, communication skills, ICT skills). This group of competences is not specific to the training role of trainers but cuts across various activities and tasks and can support completing such tasks more effectively.

To face heterogeneous groups of learners, trainers need to have social and interpersonal competences, conflict management, understanding multiculturalism, critical thinking, and communication skills.

Social competences were identified as the most important for a trainer to have (European Commission; Institute of Technology and Education, 2008). Trainers should also be able to use ICT to support learning and engage in networking and communities of practice.

Autonomy, responsibility and ability to work in teams and cooperate with other professionals are also among expected competences and skills. As agents of lifelong learning, trainers should possess self-reflection and an ability to identify their own strengths and weaknesses; ability to assess their own teaching; and responsibility for continuing professional development and further learning.

The combination and level for each group of competences needed for trainers in specific settings (for example, an apprentice master or a trainer of employees) would differ as well as some sets being of greater concern to various stakeholders (for example, technical competence can be of higher importance for an employer while multicultural awareness or pedagogical skills can be considered more important by the State).

To expect that all categories of trainers should possess the same sets and levels of competences might present too much of challenge or even be unrealistic. Practice shows that this concern is addressed (Germany, Belgium). However, it might be worth looking at alternative ways to ensure availability of all competences, for example, through teamwork. Further research on the impact (effect) of trainers’ competences on learners’ and employees’ competences and skills and also on companies’ performance and productivity and innovation is also needed.

Utilisation of Technical Education Trainers

Ngware and Nafukho [http://bit.ly/1EI6Dhz] found that while most research has been focused on the external efficiency of technical training institutions (Worswick, 1985Leibenstein, 1989; Jones 1999), limited studies have examined the issue of internal efficiency of technical training institutions…

Internal efficiency

..”Internal efficiency” in their paper is used in three different ways.

…The transformation of physical resources is combined in Institutes of Technology to produce outputs such as graduates with technical knowledge and skills. This quantitative relationship between inputs and outputs is referred to as “technical efficiency.”

Technical training ……is very expensive. Therefore, managers of public institutions such as IT should be interested in the combination of inputs and outputs that produces the maximum output at the least cost. This is referred to as “economic efficiency.”

Thus, an increase in economic efficiency occurs when the same output is produced at a lower cost. Where the desired output by policy makers, in this case a qualified technical graduate, is produced, then the training can be considered to have achieved “allocative efficiency.”

Theory of human capital

Education and training constitutes an investment in human capital that is expected to yield a stream of future returns in the form of income and earnings for the individual and society and economic growth through enhanced productivity (Harbison & Myers 1964Psacharopoulos, 1995Shultz, 1963).

The theory of human capital postulates that individuals are motivated to spend on themselves in diverse ways by purchasing education, not for its own sake, but for the sake of future pecuniary and non-pecuniary returns. Both direct and indirect costs are incurred when individuals and governments spend on education (Shultz 19611962).

From the theory of human capital, expenditures made by individuals and governments on education and training are investments that will provide returns in the future. Becker (1993) shows that investing in education and training increases individuals’ lifetime earnings.

Thus, education and training are processes of human capital formation. In fact, Shultz (1962) and Mincer (1962) note that all activities aimed at improving quality of human life such as spending on health, job search, training, and migration are part of human capital.

Critics of the human capital paradigm argue against education as having no direct relationship with occupation, productivity, or commensurate income (Senanu, 1996). For instance, the fallacy of this relationship can be seen in the fact that it is not necessarily the most trained or educated who earn the highest incomes in most developing countries.

The training process

Training, the main focus of this paper, influences variation in wages and earnings.  Mincer (1962) observes: “the training process is usually the end of a more general and preparatory stage, and the beginning of a more specialized and often prolonged process of acquisition of occupational skill, after entry into the labor force” (p. 50). The cost of training incurred by the training institutions and the trainees, including expenditures on foregone earnings, are considered investments (Aliaga, 2001).

Proponents of the human capital theory argue that there exists a relationship between education and human capital accumulation (Nafukho, 2000World Bank, 1994). However, the critics of the human capital paradigm argue against education as having no direct relationship with occupation, productivity, or commensurate income (Senanu, 1996). For instance, the fallacy of this relationship can be seen in the fact that it is not necessarily the most trained or educated who earn the highest incomes in most developing countries….

Appropriate linkage between education and the world of work

The issue of the appropriate linkage between education and the world of work will always be on the policy agenda of education systems … It will remain a matter of concern to all parties involved, be they sponsors or beneficiaries. Its salience is climaxed in conditions of economic stagnation when there are high levels of youth unemployment and a tendency to regard schools as a source of the unemployment problem. However, the real problem lies in job creation and not education (Nafukho, 1999). To address this issue, funds should be directed away from education and invested in job creation, since education is only known to directly create teaching jobs for trainers (Simmons, 1980).

In the 1960s and early 1970s, it was generally believed that vocational education could contribute directly to economic growth by decreasing unemployment, increasing participation in the labor force, and inducing socio-economic equity (Fisher, 1993). This thesis did not go unchallenged by other scholars who dubbed such thinking as the “vocational school fallacy,” arguing that vocational education was unable to fit students to specific occupations or even reduce mismatches between education and the job market in developing countries (Watson, 1988Blaug, 1970Foster, 1965).

It has been argued that vocational schools fail because they seek educational solutions to issues that are basically not educational (Lillis & Hogan, 1983)…

In their study of Trainers in IT (in Kenya),  Ngware and Nafukho found that for IT in Kenya, and other countries as well, to be internally efficient, studies of this nature are necessary.

It is the human resources in these training institutions that are instrumental in insuring both internal and external efficiency of the institutions.

Definition of workload

To insure optimal utilization of trainer resources, the definition of workload must also be revisited.

The researchers recommend revising the calculation of Full Time Staff Equivalent (FTSE) and Actual Staffing Levels to reflect time spent on preparation, course and material development, grading students’ work, and advising. This should, in addition, be combined with appropriate financial rewards in order to retain experienced trainers in these institutions.

Salary paid to trainers

The IT principals interviewed felt that the salary paid to trainers in technical institutes should be incremental and competitive, considering that trainers take a long time to train before qualifying as trainers. Deliberate efforts in increasing the salaries for trainers in IT should be made by the government. This will insure a steady supply of qualified and experienced trainers in the IT. In addition, it will reduce the high rate of turnover among trainers.

Achieving the internally set objective

For IT in Kenya (and elsewhere), to achieve the internally set objective of producing qualified graduates with the relevant technical knowledge and skills, the researchers recommend the following:

  1. Recruitment of qualified trainers with a minimum of a bachelors degree and professional training in education;
  2. Increase in the salary level of trainers as a way of reducing turnover;
  3. Acquisition of modern equipment for instructional purposes; and
  4. Redefinition of workload to include all the work that the trainers do to insure efficient and effective training.
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