How to facilitate VET teaching staff’s lifelong learning needs

The profession of vocational education is in continuous transformation as we begin to understand what is required to equip teaching staff with skills fit for the 21st Century. The skill set and role of VET teachers is being outpaced by developments of working life across industry. Employers need “work ready” students that are equipped with technical as well as those all-important transversal skills. Education has a responsibility to respond by providing opportunities for students to collaborate, develop critical-thinking skills and effective communication skills. These are the skills that will help students to flourish in an increasingly complex and uncertain world. Therefore, the teaching and learning model for education needs to focus on developing lifelong learning skills rather than simply gaining a qualification or frontloading skills that may become redundant over time. Just as industry and the economy is evolving so too must education.

A job role no longer remains constant throughout the employee’s entire career and will evolve and change as the economic landscape changes. Employees, must therefore, take ownership of and responsibility for their own continuous professional development as their careers unfold. Equally, employers must approach professional development at a strategic level to facilitate their staff’s lifelong learning needs. This can be achieved by working with vocational education providers who can be flexible and quickly adapt to industry need. VET educators work very closely with companies and other professional organisations to identify skills gaps and have the capacity to respond quickly to changing needs by developing bespoke training programmes.

Creating effective teaching and learning models for the future is more a question of developing innovative approaches to improve existing teaching models, so they become more efficient, effective and most importantly fit with the needs of all stakeholders: VET teachers, corporate staff, College management and employers. We believe that there are three critical aspects to be considered when developing a professional development strategy: personalisation, modularisation and digitalisation.

However, before any change to staff development processes are implemented, due regard must be paid to the impact of these changes on staff wellbeing. Change in working life is often cited as a key source of stress and anxiety, so organisations must meet their duty of care to their employees and ensure that support for mental wellbeing is in place and effective at times of change. Staff development strategies and wellbeing strategies should run simultaneously and be cross-referenced, where appropriate.

A key focus of the New skills for VET Teachers project is to share knowledge of the education challenges and phenomena across Europe. So far, we have written five articles related to this theme and plan to publish a further ten articles in which we will share our findings from the future planned workshops. To find more information about the project, read the articles and learn about the workshops visit the NSVETT website, and the Twitter account.

The project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the EU. On behalf of the project team: Sannakaisa Raatikainen and Craig Donald from Salpaus Further Education, Finland, and Elaine McKeown, South Eastern Regional College, Northern Ireland.