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June 2018

Education Insights News

Part II | Vocational Education and Training : what is the “gold standard” model for delivering VET?

Kevin Chin

The Swiss vocational education model is considered “gold standard” as it has achieved what few countries have been able to do which is closure of the skills gap and maintaining very low levels of youth unemployment and underemployment. The “earn while you learn” apprenticeships are highly regarded by students and employers alike and the permeability of education pathways has fostered a culture of lifelong learning in Switzerland.”


As a result of nearly a decade of being an investor in and operator of vocational education colleges, we have studied various models of delivery being practised globally.

There are essentially 4 models of vocational education and training being practised around the world:

The essential difference between each model is who holds the balance of power in designing curricula and delivering vocational education programs: the government (through its education and/or employment ministries) or the private sector (employers and trade associations). The Dual VET model is primarily driven by the private sector while in a Regulated Training ecosystem, the government is the key player. This has important ramifications for the effectiveness of the different models, as discussed below.

Dual VET

Switzerland (as per diagram above), Germany, Austria, Denmark and more recently South Korea operate a Dual VET model. Using Switzerland as an example, the key features of a Dual VET model are as follows:

School-Based VET


Finland consistently ranks as one of the top 3 in the world for its education system and outcomes. It operates a School Based VET model as does Poland, Slovenia, Lithuania.  This model is like the Dual VET model but the key difference is that most of the training is delivered in a classroom setting as opposed to in the workplace. The key features of a School Based model include as follows:

The school based VET model is similar to the dual VET model but has less private sector involvement and has a heavier classroom delivery weighting.

Career Education


Singapore has traditionally practised a Career Education VET model with its Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnics as the centrepiece. The key features of a Career Education model include the following:

It is to be noted that Singapore has been reviewing its VET strategy and recently introduced a range of new VET initiatives including an Earn and Learn program. Back in 2015, the Singapore government acknowledged that it needed to learn from and embrace more of the Swiss “gold standard” dual VET model and change the culture of education design and delivery as well as society’s view of vocational education. Led by its Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore has been studying the Swiss VET model with a view to future proofing its economy by dealing with a tight labour force and the increasing rate of change of skills in the modern workforce. Singapore is now actively championing lifelong learning through upskilling and reskilling with the SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) agency tasked with driving what is known as the SkillsFuture movement. An annual budget of S$1 billion per year to the year 2020 has been committed by the Singapore government to the SkillsFuture program. SSG will also soon launch new programmes for the Continuing Professional Education and Training (CPET) segment to help adult education professionals make learning even more relevant and accessible through its Institute for Adult Learning programme.

Given its foresight and focus, we would not be surprised if within the next decade, Singapore will have one of the world’s best and most effective VPET programs.

Regulated Training


Both Australia and New Zealand have VET models that are now primarily Regulated Training ecosystems.  The key features of a Regulated Training model include as follows:

The key problem with a regulated training model is that it risks obsolescence and irrelevance because it does not involve employers in a meaningful way in the curricula design phase. The practical reality is that it is employers who know best when a curriculum needs updating and what needs to go into a redesign well before education system academics, regulators and bureaucrats do. Furthermore, employers will move with greater pace and agility because they are incentivised to do so.

What happens when you have apprentices and trainees who are obsolete in the eyes of employers? You get sub optimal employment outcomes, a continued lack of skills development and a lot of wasted money, time and effort.

When the public sector (regulators, bureaucrats and academics) have all the power, the result is a VET model that has a tendency to ignore the needs and opinions of employers and students. This leads to a number of common VET program struggles, such as a mismatch between the education students receive and the skills that the job market requires. For example, a major American city once offered VET in horse-shoeing, yet the city was not known for its horse population. This mismatch can also lead to an over or undersupply of certain occupations. Most commonly though, academic style programs tend to lack sufficient nexus to actual skills needed by private sector employers, with limited opportunity for practical experience and major challenges finding skilled teacher-trainers. Students learning practical content in classrooms might not get the right mix of skills, or find out too late that they do not enjoy working in an occupation. Public sector educators and bureaucrats cannot know how and when to update curricula as technology and demand changes. And when they do, they move too slowly so that by the time the new curricula is released, it is already outdated.

So why persist with a Regulated Training model when there are proven alternatives such as the Dual VET model? The answer is politics. In particular, the key benefit of a regulated training model is that it enables the implementation of “labour market integration” strategies for at risk individuals including the long term unemployed. The sceptic would say this means a regulated training model equips governments with a calibration tool to “manage and massage” the politically sensitive unemployment rate including the NEET (not in employment, education and training) rate. In short, the more people ostensibly in training that would otherwise be unemployed, the lower the unemployment rate (and NEET rate).

Read More

Part I | Vocational and Professional Education and Training : a necessity in the robotics & artificial intelligence era

Part III | Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET): lessons learned from investing in & operating VET colleges