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Converging at the Gate

Published: 
Sunday, November 26, 2017

BMW spent €400 million building a new factory near Leipzig. The 110-metre ‘i’ assembly line has 14 work stations because of a new parallel assembly process and the fewer parts used in the new carbon-fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) structure of their vehicles. There is no paint shop.

A traditional press shop is absent because the passenger section requires no steel or aluminium. In the body shop, there is no welding as robots silently glue the parts together. The result is 50 per cent less power and 70 per cent less water consumed to manufacture a car compared to the production average which, in 2011, was 2.43mWh per vehicle. In addition, all of the electricity needed is generated on-site using wind power from 2.5mW turbines. Generating around 26GWh per year, these turbines generate 2GWh more electricity than is required for production and the surplus power is diverted to other parts of the plant.

The German Confederation of Skilled Crafts set out to create in 2016 a national programme to prepare migrants for apprenticeships. The two-year, €20 million ($21,339,000 million) programme, provides vocational centres with the funds to enrol students into training in trades, language and cultural integration. The Chamber of Crafts in Cottbus south of Berlin inspired by the needs of both the refugees and the region of southern Brandenburg is fully on board. Chancellor Merkel hopes that asylum seekers from Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan can remedy Germany’s labour shortage, resulting in fewer young people choosing vocational training.

In Germany, after the four-year primary school period, education pathways diverge into secondary modern schools (Hauptschule), secondary schools (Realschule), grammar schools (Gymnasium) and, in nearly all federal states, comprehensive schools (Gesamtschule). The full-time vocational schools (Berufsfachschule) have the largest intake. Vocational schools and firms have conjoint responsibility for vocational-skill development. The State oversees the regulatory framework in both locations.

‘Accredited occupations’ requiring formal training and federal regulations on examinations for further training are designed in co-operation with manufactures. The system seeks to impart structured knowledge and active competence in their proper context.

The different learning sites involved do not keep their tasks rigidly divided; school is not for theory, and in-company training exceeds praxis. In the final examinations, trainees must demonstrate mastery of the necessary skills, practical and theoretical knowledge from their company placement, as well as mastery of the course materials taught at the vocational school. The insignia “this company offers training” (Dieser Betrieb bildet aus) is a seal of quality that bolsters confidence in companies’ products.

Training allows a company to identify talent, temperament and skill set for permanent positions. In-house training nurtures the soft skills and personality traits needed for placement inside a firm. Training therefore becomes the crucible that sets the novitiate on a path.

In Trinidad and Tobago, significant modifications were made during the implementation period of the first education plan (1968-83) as a result of two proposals to the Cabinet: “The Prime Minister’s Proposal on Education,” September 1975, and “The Prime Minister’s Further Proposals to Cabinet on Education,” October 1975. One of the most notable guidelines adopted as a result of Cabinet’s approval of these two sets of proposals was that an integrated comprehensive programme embracing the traditional academic, pre-technical, commercial, general industrial and limited specialised craft training, utilising common facilities and with common management, should be adopted as the national model.

This proposal continues to keep the conversation open allowing TVET and the OJT project to converge into a hybrid model of skills training that will have direct entrepreneurial impact—producing a workforce with skills for accredited occupations and the prestige for tertiary matriculation into engineering, fashion, film, sound technology and programmes of study that will produce the capability to create and compete in the cultural and creative industries.

A Board of Industrial Training may co-ordinate strategic plans with the National Training Agency, CXC, and other stakeholders to give prestige to vocational skills training. CVQs at higher levels of competence can pave the way to university admissions. This will bestow prestige to learners holding Trinidad and Tobago National Vocational Qualifications (TTNVQs) and CVQs alongside CSEC and CAPE credentials as study pathways which diverge at 11+ re-converge at the university gates as in Germany.

Once, TVET focused on manpower planning for industrialisation, but now it has direct entrepreneurial impact in creative metalsmithing, robotics and App Design and the possibility of transforming manufacturing across the CSME.

The 2012 Shanghai Consensus supports flexible pathways and the accumulation, recognition and transfer of individual learning through transparent, well articulated outcome based qualifications systems and reliable measures for assessment, recognition and the validation of qualifications.

Dr Fazal Ali

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