A brief guide to vocational training: What it is and who is it for

SOURCE: Mandel Ngan / AFP
Vocational learning pathways are necessary for a productive and competitive economy.

By U2B Staff 

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Despite technological advancements, vocational training remains important for countries to develop skilled professionals in a specific trade or job function.

While the pandemic is far from over, reports suggests jobs and economies are gradually recovering. Skilled workers are needed as countries try to rebuild themselves.

Today, most job openings require training and education; which is why students are encouraged to study a specific area of expertise that would allow them to be qualified in workplaces that require a background of this sort. 

Unlike academic-focused career paths that require a two-year or four-year degree, vocational employment traditionally relies on shorter, job-specific, vocational training. TVET (technical and vocational education and training) programmes can generally be completed in two or fewer years — with many only lasting less than a year.

What is vocational training?

BusinessDictionary.com defines vocational training as: “Training that emphasises skills and knowledge required for a particular job function (such as typing or data entry) or a trade (such as carpentry or welding).”

Also known as ‘career and technical education’, vocational programmes are usually designed for people who are better suited for attaining expertise based on a specific career or trade. 


The different types of training

Vocational learning can be accomplished through many channels, and at varying points in a person’s career. Some different ways you can go about it:

  • Formal education: Vocational training can start at a secondary school level — by completing a Technical Matric Certificate. Unlike a regular National Senior Certificate, Technical Matric covers more work-related subjects, such as Business English or Engineering Science. You can also start your formal vocational training with your post-high school education, by choosing either a technical university or a private or public TVET college that offers national qualifications and SETA (Sector Education and Training Authority) accredited courses. Oxbridge Academy, for example, is a leading distance learning college offering vocational training courses in 25 professional fields.
  • Apprenticeship: Because vocational training is often needed to enter a trade profession, such as welding or electrical engineering, apprenticeships are often used to provide this kind of training. An apprenticeship is basically an opportunity to learn a trade by working alongside a skilled professional in an actual work environment.
  • On-the-job training: This training can either be provided directly by your company or by a third-party training provider sourced by your company. Employers often help their employees enroll for relevant training programmes, as it holds tax benefits for them if they are liable for skills development levies.
  • Continuous development: Vocational training can also be undertaken by qualified professionals for a number of reasons, such as: fulfilling the membership requirements of professional organisations, updating outdated skills, expanding skillsets, or learning an additional trade. Continuous development is done easily through online learning, or distance learning if you do not wish to take time off from your current job. In today’s labour market, continuous development has become very important for professionals who want to succeed.

Where can you get it?

  • Community colleges offer academic credentials such as associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas in various vocational paths that can be completed in two years.
  • Vocational and Trade Schools are usually supported and recognised by governments, providing programmes that are completed within one to two years.
  • Career colleges offer various training programmes usually completed within a year and are typically run by for-profit institutions.
  • Some universities also offer associate or certificate training programmes relevant to vocational tracks.
  • Job Corps is managed by the United States Department of Labor, providing free vocational training for individuals from ages 16-24.
  • Career training centers provide training or employment with vocational preparation in fields such as auto repair, construction, culinary arts, and health care.
  • Military vocational programmes were created from partnerships between The Department of Defense, the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Department of Labor. They offer training programmes of various vocational paths, created for military members looking to transition to civilian life.