Schooling in the Workplace

How Six of the World's Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life

by Nancy Hoffman

Number of pages: 224

Publisher: Harvard Education Press

BBB Library: Education, Corporate Success

ISBN: 9781612501116

About the Author

Hoffman is a vice president and senior advisor at Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit located in Boston.


Editorial Review

Across the developed countries today, educators, policy makers, and economists recognize that the new “knowledge economy” demands new and higher levels of skills than the twentieth-century high school or upper secondary school provided. Young people with aspirations to white-collar, “middle-skill” jobs in high-growth areas such as health care, high tech, engineering, and finance, as well as those choosing the old trades, need more sophisticated skills and knowledge than ever before, ranging from the ability to problem solve in messy situations to statistics to technical reading and writing. Countries that are doing much better by their young people—supporting them to achieve academically at higher levels, keeping them in school, and, most importantly, structuring the transition from school to work so that almost everyone has training for an initial career and enters the workforce smoothly—share two characteristics: they see the younger generations as important to support, protect, and engage with as an investment in future prosperity. And, in partnership with employers and unions, they educate from 40% to 75% of their young people in a vocational education system that links education and labor market needs and includes substantial learning in the workplace.

Book Reviews

"In her new book, Nancy Hoffman explores best practice examples vocational education practices around the world that the United States could learn, adopt and adapt from. Throughout the book, Hoffman outlines programs the integrate work and learning, therefore developing 21st century skills."- Getting Smart

" As Hoffman explains, unemployment rates currently soar, even as employers complain of difficulty finding candidates with the right skill set. Americans have often shied away from promoting Vocational Education and Training (VET) programming, viewing it as classist, even elitist—a system that perpetuates social and fiscal disparities." - Thomas B. Fordham Institute

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Wisdom to Share

Germany and Switzerland provide upper secondary vocational learning largely through apprenticeships.

Norway and Australia separate their school-based and workplace components. Norway provides two years of school followed by two years of apprenticeship.

The Netherlands is primarily school-based, with varying amounts of workplace experience.

The Dutch VET system is multifaceted, with early tracking (eighth grade) and many decision points along the way.

Vocational education and training (VET) helps prepare people for work, develops their skills while at work and changes what they are doing so that they can work in new or different occupations.

The key to maintaining a focus on the parts and the whole together appears in the manner by which skills and knowledge are assessed.

Strong VET systems succeed by heading the majority of young people into a combination of education and workplace learning.