Dr Rajiv Desai

An Educational Blog





Note: Even though the word ‘career’ and the word ‘vocation’ are used interchangeably, the term career guidance & career education is more inclusive than the term vocational guidance & vocational education but these terms are often used interchangeably despite delicate difference between them (vide infra). Vocational education is also known as VET (vocational education and training) or CTE (career and technical education).


The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophies. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire. Popular misconceptions about the labor market and college, including the widespread beliefs among parents that a three to four-year college degree will guarantee their children a place in the middle class and that every child has the aptitude and interests to succeed in an academic three to four-year college degree program result in mad rush for college admissions. When I was in high school, nobody gave me any career guidance including parents, teachers, friends, neighbors or society in general. I became doctor because I had high marks in higher secondary exam without ever knowing whether I had attitude and/or aptitude to become a doctor. No wonder, I discovered mathematical formula of Pi when I was a medical student. Everybody is not as blessed as me and therefore waste their entire life in a career which is a perfect mismatch with their abilities. More than one billion young people will reach working age within the next decade. Providing them with the opportunity to secure productive employment and decent work is a societal, national and global challenge. The International Labor Organization estimates that around 85.3 million young women and men were unemployed throughout the world in 2006, accounting for 44 per cent of all unemployed persons globally. I see thousands of unemployed college degree holders in India because they cannot do any skilled work like plumber, welder, electrician or mechanic. It is not just the level of education achieved, but the quality and relevance of education and training that is important. Providing young women and men with formal and non-formal educational possibilities, including career guidance & vocational training would lead to their empowerment. Action has to be taken in order to avert the growing youth unemployment crisis. The expected inflow of young people into the labor market, rather than being viewed as a problem, should be recognized as presenting an enormous opportunity and potential for economic and social development. Governments, employers’ & workers’ organizations, international development partners and civil society need to tap into this vast productive potential of men and women.



Education is the process by which people’s abilities and talents are developed. Education, in this broad sense, is also everything that is learned and acquired in a lifetime: habits, knowledge, skills, interests, attitudes, and personality. From this standpoint, people become educated not merely by attending schools but by the total experiences of life. They learn through direct experience, imitation, and self-teaching. They learn from parents and friends, from such institutions as churches and libraries, from recreational and social agencies such as clubs, and from the press, motion pictures, radio, television, internet, and the like. In the narrow sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g., instruction in schools. It is with this definition of education that the remainder of this article deals. A right to education has been created and recognized in many countries. In many European countries and Japan, almost all children between 6 and 16 are compelled by law to attend school. In many countries of Africa, Latin America, and Asia, however, a large percentage of school-age children are not able to go to school. Systems of schooling involve institutionalized teaching and learning in relation to a curriculum, which itself is established according to a predetermined purpose of the schools in the system. In formal education, a curriculum is the set of courses and their content, offered at a school or university. As an idea, curriculum stems from the Latin word for race course, referring to the course of deeds and experiences through which children grow to become mature adults. A curriculum is prescriptive, and is based on a more general syllabus which merely specifies what topics must be understood and to what level to achieve a particular grade or standard. Examples of the purpose of schools include: develop reasoning about perennial questions, master the methods of scientific inquiry, cultivate the intellect, create positive change agents, develop spirituality, and model a democratic society. Schooling is usually divided into stages or levels: primary (elementary), secondary (usually called high school), and higher education (colleges, universities, and professional schools). Adult education is often considered a fourth level.


Preschool education (or infant education) is the provision of learning to children before the commencement of statutory and obligatory education, usually between the ages of zero and three or five, depending on the jurisdiction. Primary education is the first stage of compulsory education. It is preceded by pre-school or nursery education and is followed by secondary education. In North America, this stage of education is usually known as elementary education and is generally followed by middle school. The major goals of primary education are achieving basic literacy and numeracy amongst all pupils, as well as establishing foundations in science, mathematics, geography, history and other social sciences. The relative priority of various areas, and the methods used to teach them, are an area of considerable political debate. Secondary education is the stage of education following primary education. Secondary education includes the final stage of compulsory education and in many countries it is entirely compulsory. The next stage of education is usually college or university. Secondary education is characterized by transition from primary education for minors to tertiary, “post-secondary”, or “higher” education (e.g., university, vocational school) for adults. Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education refers to the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology. Higher education also includes certain collegiate-level institutions, such as vocational schools, trade schools, and career colleges that award academic degrees or professional certifications. Higher education is taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, while vocational education and training beyond secondary education is known as further education in the United Kingdom, or continuing education in the United States. An academic discipline is a branch of knowledge which is formally taught, either at the university, or via some other such method. Each discipline usually has several sub-disciplines or branches, and distinguishing lines are often both arbitrary and ambiguous. Examples of broad areas of academic disciplines include the natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, social sciences, humanities and applied sciences.


Education benefits the individual and the society in which the individual lives. A person without an adequate education may have difficulty finding a job and earning a living. The economic well-being of a country can be undermined by lack of a skilled work force, and the more technologically advanced a nation is the more acute is its need for educated workers. Every group, no matter how primitive, makes at least some effort to train its youth in its way of life. As a society becomes more complex, education becomes more important. Schools and other institutions play a vital role in preserving and extending a nation’s cultural heritage. Education has acquired great importance in all societies. It helps to prepare the men and women who direct and carry out the varied activities required in a modern society. Education is considered to be essential in all democratic societies. People who govern themselves must learn to recognize and preserve their freedoms, form intelligent opinions about public affairs, vote thoughtfully, and hold office effectively. Education is a major component of well-being and is used in the measure of economic development and quality of life, which is a key factor determining whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country. Countries differ widely in the rate of literacy—the ability to read and write—among the adult population. Levels of literacy range from more than 95 per cent of the adult population in northern, western, & central Europe and Japan to less than 20 per cent in many of the countries of Africa and Asia. The United Nations publishes a Human Development Index every year, which consists of the Education index, GDP Index and Life Expectancy Index. These three components measure the educational attainment, GDP per capita and life expectancy respectively. The Education Index is measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). The adult literacy rate gives an indication of the ability to read and write, while the gross enrollment ratio gives an indication of the level of education from kindergarten to postgraduate education.


The image above shows World Map indicating Education Index based on the UN Human Development Report in October 2009. All countries considered to be developed countries possess a minimum score of 0.8 or above, although the great majorities have a score of 0.9 or above.


Comparison of education between India and China:

Few weeks back, in the ACER PISA test — the OECD’s annual global assessment of students’ skills (for South and South East Asia) — India came second from the bottom defeating Kyrgyzstan while China topped the list. This acts as the final nail in the coffin of India’s dented education system. China today has installed key schools meant for highly academically inclined students. China has adopted a policy of providing nine-year compulsory education to all with a special emphasis on vocational training and higher education. Contrast this with India, where a high-school student is unable to solve a basic mathematical problem or frame a sentence on his own. Moreover, Indian rural schools are mired with problems of infrastructure and above all suffer largely from the curse of teachers’ absenteeism. On an average, more than 30 per cent of teachers are found absent in rural schools in India. In 2003, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) ranking showed that there were 23 Chinese universities amongst 35 featured in total. In comparison, India did not figure anywhere in ARWU. There are 545 universities in India compared to 2,236 in China. India has only 5,100 ITIs and 1,745 polytechnics compared to China’s 500,000 VETs (Vocational Education and Training institutions). Clearly, not only is India far behind in the number of quality institutions, but India is decades behind in framing the right kind of policies. How can education policy of largest democracy far worse than that of authoritarian regime? Indian leaders & media have to answer this question. Oh, they are busy discussing cricket & bollywood and whether cricket star or movie star should be given highest civilian honor. When you do not respect education, the education does not respect you and you become a country of fake icons.


There are two main types of education:

(1) General education (academic education)—the nonspecialized education that is concerned with activities that all people have in common regardless of occupation;

(2) Vocational and Professional education — the training that prepares persons for specific jobs or professions. Vocational education means training designed to advance individuals’ general proficiency, especially in relation to their present or future occupations. The term does not normally include training for the professions. While a general education strives to give students a broad range of cross-disciplinary knowledge and at the same time a single focus (the student’s choice of major), vocational education operates under the theory that only information pertinent to a specific trade is necessary for a person to enter the work force. Within the trade that is chosen, a student of a vocational program may learn less theory than his or her counterpart at a general education school, but will probably obtain more direct experience and be well suited to enter the workforce upon graduation. Professional education courses like doctor, engineer, scientist etc do not come under preview of vocational education.


The figure below shows how general education (academic), vocational education and professional education are connected to working life.


Life Skills:

Life skills are problem solving behaviors used appropriately and responsibly in the management of personal affairs. They are a set of human skills acquired via teaching or direct experience that are used to handle problems and questions commonly encountered in daily human life. The subject varies greatly depending on societal norms and community expectations. The term “life skills” refers to the various psychosocial and interpersonal skills that lead people to a healthy and productive life. These skills include the ability to make informed decisions, communicate effectively, cope with life situations, and manage oneself. Life skills can vary from financial literacy, substance abuse prevention, to therapeutic techniques to deal with disabilities, such as autism.  Life skills may include actions for oneself or towards others, as well as actions to change the surrounding environment in order to make it more conducive to good health. Life skills competencies are necessary for the total development of children and youth. These competencies are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and types of behavior that children and youth need to become healthy, happy, and well-balanced individuals. Children who have these competencies will be able to meet the challenges of work and life in a complex and fast-paced world. Life skills are often taught in the domain of parenting, either indirectly through the observation and experience of the child, or directly with the purpose of teaching a specific skill.


Life skills ought to be taught to students in schools are narrated below:

Life skills are incorporated in education curricula of developed nations while life skills are ignored in education curricula of developing nations. The cause-effect relationship between life skills and development is unclear. That means whether incorporation of life skills in education curricula resulted in producing a developed nation or whether developed nation incorporated life skills as a consequence of their development is a matter of debate. I got educated in India but nobody taught me any life skill. My entire school education was based on memorizing concepts rather than applying concepts in practice.


Aptitude and attitude:

Aptitude is variously defined as innate learning ability, the specific ability needed to facilitate learning a job, aptness, knack, suitability, readiness, tendency, natural or acquired disposition or capacity for a particular activity, or innate component of a competency. It is the sum total of innate abilities plus acquired skills and abilities. The first component of aptitude is beyond a person’s control – we are just born that way – and the second one is dependent attitude! Aptitude is something over which none of us have any control whatsoever (except when we acquire learned skills).






Attitude is the manner, disposition, feeling or position, etc. with regard to a person or thing – tendency or orientation especially of the mind (positive/negative attitude); also the position or posture of the body appropriate to or expressive of an action, emotion, etc. e.g. a threatening attitude or a relaxed attitude. Simply put, I’d say it is our mental / emotional response to people or events in life. Attitude is something over which all of us have total control.




Aptitude Assessment for career and educational guidance:

Suppose that two persons of equal intelligence have the same opportunities to learn a job or develop a skill. They attend the same on-the-job training or classes, study the same material, and practice the same length of time. One of them acquires the knowledge or skill easily; the other has difficulty and takes more time, if they ever master the skill. These two people differ in aptitude for this type of work or skill acquisition.  Aptitude assessments are used to predict success or failure in an undertaking. For vocational/career guidance and planning, they are used to measure different aptitudes such as general learning ability, numerical ability, verbal ability, spatial perception, and clerical perception. Objective aptitude tests are based on timed sub-tests whose results are compared to age-group norms or other criteria – as opposed to self-report inventories of abilities often found in computerized career exploration systems. For helping a person find and pursue a career, course of study, or work experience program; aptitude assessment should logically precede achievement testing or skills assessment.


Aptitude Tests:

The aptitude tests can be of two types: general and vocational. A general aptitude test reports only on some main elements of your aptitudes. But, if you want to know some concrete and specific details, you have to take vocational aptitude test. The last can be of different types: language, dental, management, accounting, differential, electrical, programmer, fire fighter, writing, military, police, computer, clerical, nursing, flight, sales, music, etc. Most students have had to take several standardized tests throughout their academic careers.  Some gauge students solely on their knowledge and expertise, while others assess students on their aptitude.  Standardized aptitude tests have been utilized in a variety of ways, from identifying children with learning difficulties as early as in elementary school, to conversely distinguishing gifted students with higher propensities for scholastic success.  One of the most notable and notorious examples of an aptitude test, taken by millions of high school students each year to determine their readiness for college, is the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).  On the surface, the SAT evaluates students’ achievement in basic algebra, geometry, reading and writing. However, in deeper ways, the exam is also similar to an IQ test in measuring students’ abilities to interpret and analyze presented information and solve problems.  Nevertheless, the validity and usefulness of employing aptitude tests to establish the paths in which students proceed in their academic careers still remains controversial.


Aptitude versus IQ Testing:

Aptitudes might be thought of as separate types of intelligence, each perhaps having relative strength or weakness in an individual. This can be of high value for determining what training or career to pursue. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is one score summarizing a person’s overall intelligence based on a broad range of abilities. An IQ score will indicate that you are smart, average, or not smart, but it is not a precise tool for career guidance. Two people with the same IQ might have very different scores for their individual aptitudes.


Attitude (motivation) versus aptitude (ability/intelligence):

Is Intelligence or Motivation more important for positive Higher-Educational outcomes?

A longitudinal study at University of Western Ontario explored the relationships among a set of student input and environmental throughput variables in predicting output human capital skills acquisition and academic achievement at a large Canadian university. The framework for exploring these relationships is referred to as the integrated paradigm of student development. Surprisingly, input intelligence quotient was negatively related to output human capital skills and to various adjustment measures. Input motivation best predicted output skills acquisition and achievement, independent of intelligence quotient.  Although these counterintuitive findings may be sample- and university-specific, the instrument package representing the integrated paradigm of student development appears to provide a useful diagnostic battery for evaluating how well different types of students make the transition to different types of university settings.


Can a hotel employee with great aptitude, but a poor attitude provide superior guest service? Absolutely. The more pertinent question is: will that employee consistently provide the level of service you want and you deserve? Probably not. Can the poor attitude sometimes adversely affect job performance?  Absolutely.  What about the opposite? Can a positive attitude compensate for less aptitude?  At least partially. As a “professional guest,” you are far more tolerant of a genuinely cordial and guest-oriented employee who may not be a technical wizard rather than someone super efficient desk clerk who does not smile, or even look at you during check in. Surveys indicate that many hotel guests share similar tolerance. A prospective employee’s aptitude is often tested as part of the recruitment and hiring process. What about attitude of the applicant who deals with hotel guests every day?


Although it might sound counterintuitive to some, there are indications that attitude can outweigh aptitude in determining whether skills are attained. While marketing skills assessment to the business community, many educators have heard employers say something to the equivalent of, “just give me a person with the right attitude, who will show up and stay on the job, and we’ll train them.” A study entitled Attitude versus Aptitude, by Côté and Levine, published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, found that motivation was a better predictor than IQ for skills acquisition.


Attitude and aptitude both contribute to a person’s success but attitude drives aptitude rather than the other way round. Attitude helps an individual connect with his/her inner yearnings, enjoy the process or journey rather than elate or despair at the end result and this perspective on life leads to satisfaction and success. Look at the lives of all these people –Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs – what did they have in common? Attitude! An unrelenting attitude, a perspective to see things the way other people did not see! And even as I write this, I do not mean to say that they needed no aptitude, they did have great aptitude also. What made them different from the rest of the world was their attitude of subscribing seriously and strictly to their own beliefs rather than to the world’s expectations of them. This led them to develop aptitudes that were aligned to their respective beliefs. For instance, if Steve Jobs, the brain behind Apple and Pixar, did not have that attitude of non-conformation to societal or parental expectations, he would have been just another graduate that his foster parents so desired him to be or people of his age aspired to become. His attitude to explore the aptitudes and skills that interested him helped him learn calligraphy even as he had no idea on how he might use it ever; but his creative attitude stimulated him to use it beautifully in creating a typography that most operating systems use today. The same is true of the Einstein and Gates of this world. Not doing well in academics did not have any bearing on their lives because they had a more powerful tool, better designed for success and that was their attitude!


Basically attitude is about how we view our world, and aptitude means the talent or ability we possess whether it is natural or learned. One would think that if you possess the right skills and abilities, you will succeed in life. Why would we think this way? We have spent many years going to school to develop our skills and abilities. The logical conclusion of our education is that we would be qualified to get a job, right?  People, who make decisions about employment, just don’t look at only your aptitude. Given that everyone has the aptitude for the job, what really differentiates you?  An experienced hiring manager looks beyond aptitude (provided you meet the requirement and experience). Attitude is what makes a key distinction. You need both, but attitude is more important then you may realize.


Positive attitude:

A father had twin sons. One was an incurable pessimist, the other an eternal optimist. On Christmas day, father decided to conduct an experiment. He put the pessimist son in one room surrounded by every gift a youngster could ever imagine and the optimist in another room full of horse manure. After a time, he looked in on his pessimist son and found him sitting amidst all these toys, clothes and sporting goods frowning, worried and deep in thought. When asked “What is wrong?”, this son said, “Dad, I can’t figure out the catch behind all this good stuff, but I am determined to do so and I need to be left alone now so I can work on it harder”. Next, the father looked in on his optimist son who was waist-deep in all that horse manure, but was sweating profusely from quickly shoveling it into a big pile over his shoulder. When asked what he was doing, the optimist son said, “Dad, I figure with all this crap around me, there must be a pony in here somewhere!” A positive attitude is the best attitude. Although it is not possible to be 100% positive and cheery all the time, it is important to remember that attitude shapes our thinking and mindset. Attitude also rubs of onto others, which is why we tend to stay away from negative people with bad attitudes.


Here some thoughts about attitude that are important.

1. Attitudes influence your outcomes: attitude projects your future or speaks to your potential and the results you are looking for before they happen. (e.g. can do attitude finds solutions vs. we are bound to fail)
2. Attitude is the one thing you have control over where as aptitude is given (natural gifts and talents) and can be developed.
3. Attitude is a choice: you can choose to think differently about how you view your world.
4. Repeatedly choosing the right attitude will develop into a habit which in turn will develop your character over time.
5. Attitude will determine the level of your personal and professional development.
6. People can see and sense a good or bad attitude.
7. Attitude will determine the level of your success provided you continuously cultivate your aptitude.
8. Decision makers (hiring managers, executives, leaders) measure the results people produce as well as their attitude. Great results with a bad attitude that sours an organization is typically less desirable than getting lesser results with a good attitude.
9. Having the right attitude will eliminate stress in life, and likely enhance your health.
10. Attitudes are contagious and influence the atmosphere around you. It can advance an organization or be toxic.


Aptitude is governed by cerebral cortex primarily under genetic control but can be learned through mirror neurons (acquired skills). Attitude is governed by limbic system of brain responsible for emotions and memory. As there are connection between cortex and limbic system, attitudes can be changed by human with due process of learning and counseling but innate ability cannot be changed by training. However, a portion of aptitude which is acquired skill can be obtained by learning.

Altitude (success) 100 % = attitude (motivation) 60 % + aptitude (ability) 40 %

If you have zero aptitude, you cannot succeed no matter how great is your attitude. If you have zero attitude, you will not succeed no matter how great is your aptitude. We need both attitude and aptitude. Also, positive attitude can help improvise aptitude but vice versa is unlikely.


Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Psychological Types vis-à-vis career choice:

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people perceive the world and make decisions. The original developers of the personality inventory were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers. They began creating the indicator during World War II, believing that knowledge of personality preferences would help women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time to identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be “most comfortable and effective”. The initial questionnaire grew into the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which was first published in 1962. The MBTI focuses on normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences.

The four pairs of preferences or dichotomies are shown in the table below:



Extraversion (E) –

(I) Introversion

Sensing (S) –

(N) Intuition

Thinking (T) –

(F) Feeling

Judgment (J) –

(P) Perception


Typological model regards psychological type as similar to left or right handedness: individuals are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of thinking and acting. The MBTI sorts some of these psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or dichotomies, with a resulting 16 possible psychological types. None of these types are better or worse; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that individuals naturally prefer one overall combination of type differences. In the same way that writing with the left hand is hard work for a right-hander, so people tend to find using their opposite psychological preferences more difficult, even if they can become more proficient (and therefore behaviorally flexible) with practice and development. Note that the terms used for each dichotomy have specific technical meanings relating to the MBTI which differ from their everyday usage. For example, people who prefer judgment over perception are not necessarily more judgmental or less perceptive. Nor does the MBTI instrument measure aptitude; it simply indicates for one preference over another. In her research, Isabel Myers found that the proportion of different personality types varied by choice of career or course of study. However, some researchers examining the proportions of each type within varying professions report that the proportion of MBTI types within each occupation is close to that within a random sample of the population. Some researchers have expressed reservations about the relevance of type to job satisfaction, as well as concerns about the potential misuse of the instrument in labeling individuals. Studies suggest that the MBTI is not a useful predictor of job performance.



The word “career” is used to refer to one’s progress through his/her working life, particularly in a certain profession or line of work. When we talk about a “career in teaching” or a “career in technology” we mean that a person will study and then work in teaching or in technology, perhaps changing jobs from time to time in the interests of advancement. The goals that one has for one’s working life are called “career goals,” and planning how we will reach them is called setting a “career path.” Carpentry, engineering, nursing, hospitality, social work, banking, and farming are just a few of the many possible careers people might choose. Generally, vocation and career are used interchangeably. A vocation is a career or calling and the word is derived from the Latin vocare, which means “to call.” Vocational guidance means helping someone find his or her calling or at least a suitable career choice. Vocations or careers can be loosely categorized into areas such as service, technical, mechanical, creative, health and business.


Selecting a career is an uphill task and most crucial decision in one’s life. Occupation of a profession of a person determines his mode of living and economic prospects. Moreover, a particular working atmosphere and service structure influences attitude and behavior of an individual. A particular line of work is the focal way to accomplish goals, materialize ambitions and realize dreams in the twisting and meandering life course. Therefore, appropriate information and guidelines are mandatory to select a vocation according to ones aptitude. Lack of awareness about career planning has grave implications for the future of the candidates. The changing of a profession results in experience gained for one profession become useless after changing the row of employment. Changing of vocation also generates frustration in the educated people because of comparison with previous professions and looking for future avenues in the new service.


Holland’s Theory of Career Choice:

The career key is based on John Holland’s theory of career choice. The theory explains work-related behavior – such as, which career choices are likely to lead to job success and satisfaction. It also explains other human actions, like success and satisfaction in school and training programs. It is the best known and most widely researched theory on this topic and is used by most career counselors. In our culture, most people are one of six personality types: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. People of the same personality type working together in a job create a work environment that fits their type. For example, when Artistic persons are together on a job, they create a work environment that rewards creative thinking and behavior — an Artistic environment. There are six basic types of work environments: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.  People search for environments where they can use their skills and abilities and express their values and attitudes. For example, Investigative types search for Investigative environments; Artistic types look for Artistic environments, and so forth. People who choose to work in an environment similar to their personality type are more likely to be successful and satisfied. For example, Artistic persons are more likely to be successful and satisfied if they choose a job that has an Artistic environment like choosing to be a dance teacher in a dancing school. How you act and feel at work depends to a large extent on your workplace (or school) environment. If you are working with people who have a personality type like yours, you will be able to do many of the things they can do, and you will feel most comfortable with them.

According to this theory, you should choose an occupation whose personality type is the same as, or similar to yours. This is most likely to lead to your job satisfaction and success.


Parent’s role:

The most important influences in a student’s life should be reflected through parental influences. However, many parents do not have all the information needed to make educated decision about a child’s future career plan. However, all parents should be involved in their child’s future planning, not just financially. The parents know just as much if not more about their children than the child does. Parents should play four key roles in children’s learning as depicted below:


However, we all have prejudices. The problem is that prejudices come out of personal experience and, while we are happy to learn from others, we should not allow someone else’s personal experience to completely cloud our own decisions and good judgment. So parents can have their own prejudices resulting in biased career advice. Also, some of the careers that exist today did not exist 10 years ago – your parents may not know about them. Under such circumstances, it’s best to obtain career advice from someone who specializes in career guidance. We depend on family to provide emotional and financial support, so it is important to take cognizance of their advice, and at the same time to get them to believe in us and our choices.


The table below shows various factors influencing career choice of Indian MBA students:


A survey was done to find whether students received careers advice or not?

A  survey published  by the Panel on Fair Access to Professions reveals that young people feel they are not given the careers advice they need but have a thirst for a professional career. Young people have been a vital part of the Fair Access Panel’s work and over 1,500 young people from all parts of U.K. took part in the survey. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents to the survey commissioned by the panel want more careers support, highlighting work experience opportunities as key to getting a foot in the door. Over a third of 13-19 year olds want a career in the key professions – with teaching, medicine and law the favored occupations. However:

1) 70% of under 14s have had no careers advice.

2) 45% over 14 have had no or very poor/limited advice.

3) Girls rate the advice somewhat worse than boys.

4) Girls more likely to do personal research and make more use of external opportunities (role model visits etc.).


The same survey analyzed what sort of career students want to pursue.


Ideas and suggestions put forward by young people (in the same survey) to tackle the challenges of entering a professional career include:

-Open days for the professions with placements for those interesting in pursuing a career.

-An expansion in good quality work placements in careers where experience and contacts are the key.

-Providing role models of people who actually get into top professions.


The table below shows most favored occupations among students:

The table above also shows marked difference in career choice between boys and girls. Why? Discussed below.


Gender difference vis-à-vis career: various studies:


Gender difference and career interest among Undergraduates: Implications for career choices:

A study was conducted to determine the career interests of university students. Two hundred and thirty-eight undergraduates were involved in the study. They consisted of 101male and 137 female students attending three public universities in Malaysia. The findings of the study suggested that the career interest patterns of university students vary across gender. The study showed that male students constituted the larger group in the realistic career interest patterns (70%) compared to females (30%). Another researcher, Van Burren et al. (1993) also found that more males than female students preferred realistic and investigative occupations. Researchers like Bem (1981) and Betz (1994) have tried to reason out the factors relevant to the development of gender differences in vocational interest. They suggested that the development of gender difference in vocational interests as well as vocational choices is a result of multitudes of factors, some which are internally related, and some are environmentally related. In a study by Betz (1994), it was found that occupational stereotype is one of the factors affecting the vocational interest of genders. On this basis, people believed that occupations are designed to be appropriate for one gender and not for the other gender. Self-concepts, self-efficacy, personality and even the environment could also influence the career interest pattern where students grew-up. For instance, the perceptions of many students that subjects such as mathematics and physics are difficult could affect one’s career interest.



Impact of a career planning course on academic performance and graduation rate:

A study was conducted to assess the impact of a career-planning course in terms of time taken to graduate, graduation rate, credit hours taken, number of course withdrawals, and cumulative GPAs. Student course participants (N = 544) were compared to a matched sample of non-course participants (N = 544) after 5 years. Results showed that the 2 groups differed with respect to hours taken to graduation and number of course withdrawals. Women participants graduated in less time than nonparticipants but had more course withdrawals. Men took longer to graduate but had fewer course withdrawals and higher GPAs.



Gender differences for optimism, self-esteem, expectations and goals in predicting career planning and exploration in adolescents:

An Australian sample (N=467) of high school students was administered scales tapping optimism, self-esteem, career expectations, career goals, career planning and career exploration. The study tested a career mediational model based on social cognitive career theory (SCCT) and cognitive–motivational–relational theory (CMR). It was hypothesized that the stable person inputs of optimism and self-esteem would predict career planning and career exploration through the variables of career expectations and career goals differentially for young males and females. For males, optimism and self-esteem influenced career expectations, sequentially predicting career goals, career planning and career exploration. A different pathway was identified for females, with optimism directly influencing career goals, which subsequently predicted career planning and career exploration. Self-esteem predicted career expectations, which then directly influenced career planning and career exploration by bypassing career goals.



Gender differences in vocational education: an international perspective:

A study uses distributional analysis applied to cross-country data from UNESCO to examine shares of secondary school students enrolled in the vocational track, by gender. The emphasis on vocational education and access to different types of training across demographic groups varies considerably around the world. European countries in particular, long known for their heavy emphasis on specialized vocational schooling, have relatively high vocational school shares in secondary school. At the other end of the distribution, almost 30 countries in the sample, most of them low-income, have vocational school shares below 4 percent. In the majority of countries, a higher share of male secondary school students enroll in the vocational track compared with female students. Latin American countries stand out for having a high female representation among vocational school students. In the USA, male students cluster in trade and industrial courses, while female students cluster in business preparation courses.



Men and Things, Women and People: A Meta-Analysis of Sex Differences in Interests:

The magnitude and variability of sex differences in vocational interests were examined in the meta-analysis for Holland’s (1959, 1997) categories (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional), Prediger’s (1982) Things–People and Data–Ideas dimensions, and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) interest areas. Technical manuals for 47 interest inventories were used, yielding 503,188 respondents. Results showed that men prefer working with things and women prefer working with people, producing a large effect size (d – 0.93) on the Things–People dimension. Men showed stronger Realistic (d – 0.84) and Investigative (d – 0.26) interests, and women showed stronger Artistic (d – 0.35), Social (d – 0.68), and Conventional (d – 0.33) interests. Sex differences favoring men were also found for more specific measures of engineering (d – 1.11), science (d – 0.36), and mathematics (d – 0.34) interests. Average effect sizes varied across interest inventories, ranging from 0.08 to 0.79. The quality of interest inventories, based on professional reputation, was not differentially related to the magnitude of sex differences. Moderators of the effect sizes included interest inventory item development strategy, scoring method, theoretical framework, and sample variables of age and cohort. Application of some item development strategies can substantially reduce sex differences. The present study suggests that interests may play a critical role in gendered occupational choices and gender disparity in the STEM fields.



Gender differences in financial risk aversion and career choices are affected by testosterone:

Women are generally more risk averse than men. Researchers investigated whether between- and within-gender variation in financial risk aversion was accounted for by variation in salivary concentrations of testosterone and in markers of prenatal testosterone exposure in a sample of >500 MBA students. Higher levels of circulating testosterone were associated with lower risk aversion among women, but not among men. At comparably low concentrations of salivary testosterone, however, the gender difference in risk aversion disappeared, suggesting that testosterone has nonlinear effects on risk aversion regardless of gender. A similar relationship between risk aversion and testosterone was also found using markers of prenatal testosterone exposure. Finally, both testosterone levels and risk aversion predicted career choices after graduation: Individuals high in testosterone and low in risk aversion were more likely to choose risky careers in finance. These results suggest that testosterone has both organizational and activational effects on risk-sensitive financial decisions and long-term career choices.


Research has demonstrated that parental perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes in turn influence their children’s development and interests; and also cultural factors affect difference in career choices among boys and girls. Gender-based differences in parental attitudes and practices and in experiences with and perceptions of science may contribute to enhanced scientific literacy skills among boys relative to girls. By the time they reach adolescence, girls and boys report having different experiences with science-related activities. Boys report experiences such as making catapults, changing a car battery, playing with electric toys, or using a microscope; girls report experiences such as making bread or pastries, watching a bird make its nest, observing the stars, or planting seeds. When asked about their interests, boys prefer learning about planes, cars, atom bombs, nuclear power plants, or electricity; girls prefer learning about rainbows, healthy eating, animal communication, or AIDS. The dearth of women in scientific fields of study is reflected by a similar underrepresentation of women in science and engineering occupations. Over the past three decades, women in Canada have joined the labor force in ever-increasing numbers: as of 2006, women accounted for 47% of all workers in Canada. Over the same period, women have accounted for a steadily increasing proportion of workers in health care and social assistance and educational services, but the relative proportion of women in professional, scientific and technical services has declined compared to the overall proportion of women in the labor force as seen in the figure below:


Career test:

You can take online/offline career test that is aimed at determination of you professional preferences. The career test will be interesting for pupils and students; it will help select future profession. It also will help anyone who wants to learn as to what professions they like the best. The free career test can make you reconsider your future plans and gave you a deeper vocational insight. It can make you change the direction of your future education away from your original plan. The fact that you are sure you know everything about your abilities is completely wrong, as your hidden possibilities may be revealed with time. Career test gives you an opportunity to do it sooner.


The figure below depicts various factors that join up into choosing a career.



Guidance is defined as the application of mental health, psychological or human development principles; through cognitive, affective, behavioral or systemic intervention strategies; that addresses wellness, personal growth or career development as well as pathology.


Guidance and counseling is a concept that institutions especially schools, should promote the efficient and happy lives of individuals by helping them adjust to social realities. The disruption of community and family life by industrial civilization convinced many that guidance experts should be trained to handle problems of individual adjustment. Though the need for attention to the whole individual had been recognized by educators since the time of Socrates, it was only during the 20th century that researchers actually began to study and accumulate information about guidance.


Perspectives on guidance and social inclusion in a global society:

In most countries there is a widening gap between rich and poor, those with opportunity and those who are marginalized, those with education and those without, and those who struggle for survival and those for whom survival generates barely a passing thought. In most countries, women continue to earn less than men. Equal pay for work of equal value is a commonly expressed goal, but most evidence indicates that the goal is far from being met, even in so-called developed countries. In many (perhaps even most) countries, status is attached to a university education, and young people (and their parents) seek career paths in the so-called professional occupations, even though unemployment for university graduates is chronically high. Vocational education and training (VET) is often regarded as an inferior second, regardless of a student’s interests, passions, or abilities, and despite the fact that many jobs in the trades go unfilled. Thus, many (perhaps most) countries import workers to fill blue-collar jobs while their own young people seek training in professions for which there are few employment opportunities. Many young people dismiss promising and meaningful career paths in areas where employment demand is great, simply because of the stigma attached to working in technical and vocational occupations. Frequently, investment in training goes unrealized, because young people drop out of training, or complete training, but then do not enter the occupational field for which they have been trained. Educational systems continue to be directed primarily towards preparation for university education, even though the majority of students end up making transitions directly into the labor force. These are phenomena that are experienced in many countries, regardless of whether they are thought of as developing or developed countries. Think of contradictions. There are many areas in many developing countries where soft drinks are available but clean drinking water is not available. I am sure that most people have similar stories that they could share, of situations where the good intentions of people from “more developed” countries create a plan for helping those in “developing” countries fall into substantial frustration.  At a cognitive level, we are aware that ideas and approaches often do not translate well from one country to another or from one culture to another. Many people are encountering that lesson again at a practical level. If guidance is going to have a meaningful impact on social inclusion, guidance experts likely will need to dramatically change the way they think about their mission, their mandate, and the scope of their practice. They may even need to revise the way in which they view the role of guidance in society. Society today is on a roller coaster ride for many. The prosperity and abundance enjoyed by a few are not shared by most. Models for guidance and counseling have for the most part been developed with middle class populations in developed countries. Even in the so called developed countries, large portions of the population are not well served by existing approaches. If we are to realize the dream of maximizing the world’s potential though guidance, we will need to expand our mission, mandate, and scope of practice to include an explicit and substantial component focused on a social inclusion agenda, implemented in partnership with all stakeholders, and incorporating specific steps to demonstrate the added value that guidance brings to attempts to provide a more meaningful and fulfilling life for the citizens of our countries.


Father of guidance:

Frank Parsons is often considered as the “Father of Guidance”. He was trained in multiple disciplines, being a lawyer, an engineer, a college teacher, and a social worker before becoming a social reformer and working with youth. He was characterised as a broad scholar, a persuasive writer, a tireless activist, and a great intellect. Frank Persons defines vocational guidance as “the choice of a vocation, adequate preparation for it and the success” He also said that ideal career choices are based on matching personal traits (aptitude, abilities, resources, personality) with job fact (wages, environment, etc) to produce the best condition implement their own education and of vocational success. He is best known for founding the Boston Vocational Bureau in 1908, a major step in the institutionalization of vocational guidance. At the Bureau, he worked with young people who were making decisions about their career. In his book, Choosing a Vocation, which was published in 1909 (one year after his death), he developed a framework to help individuals decide on a career. According to Parsons, an ideal career choice should be based on matching personal traits such as abilities and personality, with job characteristics such as wages, requirements, prospects and so forth, through true reasoning. This is more likely to ensure vocational success. His framework later became the popular “Trait-Factor Theory” in career guidance (which is still used today). Parsons created procedures to help his clients learn more about themselves and the world of work. He designed an extensive questionnaire that asked about clients’ experiences, preferences and moral values. The idea of having vocational counsellors was implemented in many primary and secondary schools in the Boston area and it gradually spread to other major cities in the United States. By 1910, 35 cities had followed Boston’s steps.


Career guidance is a better term than vocational guidance:

According to Kagan and Havemann, vocational guidance is “the technique of helping a person selects the right lifetime occupation, often through test of attitudes and interests”. Vocational guidance is assistance in choosing a career or profession or in making employment or training decisions. An example of vocational guidance is a meeting with a consultant who helps people figure out what a good job would be for them based on their skills and qualifications. The term career guidance is replacing the term vocational guidance. Vocational guidance is focused upon the choice of occupation, and is distinguished from educational guidance, which focuses upon choices of courses of study. Career guidance brings the two together and stresses the interaction between learning and work. Career guidance can be defined as “services and activities intended to assist individuals of any age and at any point throughout their lives, to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers” (OECD & EC, 2004). Such services may be found in schools, universities and colleges, in training institutions, in public employment services, in the workplace, in the voluntary or community sector and in the private sector. The activities may take place on an individual or group basis, and may be face-to-face or at a distance (including help lines and web-based services). They include career information provision (in print, ICT-based and other forms), assessment and self-assessment tools, counseling interviews, career education programs (to help individuals develop their self awareness, opportunity awareness, and career management skills), taster programs (to sample options before choosing them), work search programs, and transition services.


As defined earlier, career guidance is services intended to assist people, of any age and at any point throughout their lives, to make educational, training and occupational choices and to manage their careers. Career guidance includes career education, career counseling, employment counseling, job placement and career information. Career guidance consists of services that help people successfully manage their career development. Although this aspect of human development occurs on its own as we mature, everyone can benefit from assistance navigating through this process. Career guidance often involves assisting students and adults who are trying to choose a career. Career development professionals may administer self assessment instruments or teach their clients how to use self-administered tools, to help them learn about their interests, values, skills and personality type. They can educate individuals about how to explore occupations that are most suitable based on that information and then ultimately teach them how to decide which one is the best choice.  Helping you choose a career would be pointless if you didn’t know how to find a job in your field of choice. Therefore career guidance also consists of providing job search assistance.


Career guidance helps people to reflect on their ambitions, interests, qualifications and abilities. It helps them to understand the labor market and education systems, and to relate this to what they know about themselves. Comprehensive career guidance tries to teach people to plan and make decisions about work and learning. Career guidance makes information about the labor market and about educational opportunities more accessible by organizing it, systematizing it, and making it available when and where people need it. In its contemporary forms, career guidance draws upon a number of disciplines: psychology; education; sociology; and labor economics. Historically, psychology is the major discipline that has under-pinned its theories and methodologies. In particular differential psychology and developmental psychology have had an important influence. One-to-one interviews and psychological testing for many years were seen as its central tools. There are many countries where psychology remains the major entry route. However in most countries career guidance is now provided by people with a very wide range of training and qualifications. Some are specialists; some are not. Some have had extensive, and expensive, training; others have had very little. Training programs are still heavily based upon developing skills in providing help in one to-one interviews. On the other hand, psychological testing now receives a reduced emphasis in many countries as counseling theories have moved from an emphasis upon the practitioner as expert to seeing practitioners as facilitators of individual choice and development. While personal interviews are still the dominant tool, career guidance includes a wide range of other services: group discussions; printed and electronic information; school lessons; structured experience; telephone advice; on-line help. Career guidance is provided to people in a very wide range of settings: schools and tertiary institutions; public employment services; private guidance providers; enterprises; and community settings.


The term vocational guidance means assistance given to an individual in solving problems related to occupational choice and progress with due regard for the individual’s characteristics and their relation to occupational opportunity. Vocational guidance is based on the free and voluntary choice of the individual; its primary object is to give him full opportunity for personal development and satisfaction from work, with due regard for the most effective use of national manpower resources. Vocational guidance is a continuous process, the fundamental principles of which are the same irrespective        of the age of the individuals being counseled. These principles have an immediate importance for the welfare of      individuals everywhere and for the prosperity of all countries. Facilities for vocational guidance should be adapted to the peculiar needs of each country and be adopted progressively. Their development within each country should proceed from a widespread understanding of the purpose of vocational guidance, the establishment of an adequate administrative structure and the provision of technically qualified personnel.


Vocational guidance and counseling is widely accepted as a powerful and effective method of helping to bridge the gap between education and the world of work, as well as between school and society. It is a means of assisting young people to make appropriate and judicious educational choices that will enable them to develop their potential and to have access to work opportunities that are compatible with their interests and abilities. It can also help to instill confidence and positive attitudes, to derive fulfillment from their chosen areas of learning and work and, most importantly, to inculcate an eagerness for lifelong learning.


Vocational guidance is often started in high school although some high schools also have vocational training programs. Vocational exploration courses offer students the opportunity to research different career possibilities as well as learn which vocational areas they have aptitude or talent in. For instance, many vocational guidance classes give tests to the students that test their ability with experimental numbers, words, mechanical concepts and many more subjects. Tests designed to measure an individual’s personality traits, intelligence quotient (IQ) as well as his or her main values and interests are administered and analyzed by career counselors.  Vocational guidance is a service to help other find appropriate jobs. The core components of a vocational guidance program are: an appraisal service, an informational service, a counseling service and a planning, placement and follow-up service.  The vocational guidance service is provided in educational institutions like school, colleges and universities and non-educational settings like government and non-government employment exchange services.


The need for vocational guidance has grown as a result of the greater variety of jobs and skills required in modern society, and greater awareness of how widely people differ in interests and abilities. Whatever a person’s work, a high degree of efficiency is usually important. To achieve this, individuals have to be satisfied with their jobs. The choice of a vocation affects not only the quality of their work but also their relationships with others and their usefulness to the community. Young people need help in finding their real interests and capabilities. They need help in making a realistic, as opposed to fanciful, choice of a career. And they need guidance in planning for a well-rounded education as well as for specific training for a particular vocation. For young people, vocational guidance may be spread over a period of years. Specific guidance may start in the seventh or eighth grade, where students may read books and watch films and videotapes that deal with careers. They may visit factories, farms, stores, or other places of work such as hospitals, courtrooms, and airports. Adults, too, are often in need of vocational guidance. A person may realize, after months or even years in a particular occupation, that he or she is unsuited to the work and unhappy in it. Circumstances may force a person to leave one kind of job and seek another. After retirement from a job, older persons often find they still need to work. Women who leave work to have children often need or want to reenter the job market when their children reach school age. Immigrants need help in adjusting to jobs in their new homeland. Disabled persons require help in training for and adjusting to jobs.


Vocational Guidance Programs:

Vocational guidance is one of the basic pillars in the life of contemporary societies as this process continues throughout the individual life, starting as he joins kindergarten and continues throughout his shift to the stages of general education, graduation in higher education stages, embarking on practical life till his pension. Guidance process has an important and constructive impact on the individual life as it helps him achieve harmony between the various factors of his personality, tendencies and preparedness and the reality of life. This helps him develop and grow in various psychological, social and economic aspects and consequently assist in achieving prosperity and progress of the society in which he lives. Vocational guidance usually covers six areas:

(1) Studying or surveying the various kinds of occupations;

(2) Determining aptitudes;

(3) Choosing a vocation;

(4) Preparing for work in the chosen vocation;

(5) Finding a job;

(6) Adjusting to and gaining competence in the job.


Policy makers and career guidance:

Support by public policy-makers for career guidance has traditionally rested upon a belief that it can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of labor markets and educational systems, as well as contribute to social equity. Indeed formal career guidance has its origins in a concern in the early parts of the 20th century to use systematic methods to help underprivileged young people to choose an occupation when they were leaving school and about to look for a job (Parsons, 1909). Some of the policy challenges that career guidance must respond to in OECD countries are long-standing: to improve the knowledge and skills base of the population; to keep unemployment low and ensure that labor supply and demand are in harmony; and to ensure that education and employment opportunities are distributed equitably. Some countries – Denmark and Norway are examples – made it clear that they expected the goals of career guidance to be centered on the individual: for instance by increasing personal satisfaction, improving career decision-making, or increasing personal development. All countries made it clear that they also expected career guidance to serve a number of important public objectives. And all indicated that their career guidance services are being strongly influenced by current issues and developments in public policy. These public policy goals, issues and developments fall into three broad categories: learning goals; labor market goals; and social equity goals.


Learning goals:

In some cases, countries expressed the significance of career guidance for education, training and skills development in quite broad terms. For example, Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom made it clear that career guidance is an important part of their approach to lifelong learning. Canada and Korea saw it as one way in which public policy can support the development of human resources.  More broadly, it is very common for countries to see career guidance as a tool that can help to improve the efficiency of their education systems. Countries also saw career guidance as a way to improve the interface between education and the labor market. Finally, three European countries – Austria, Finland and Germany – saw career guidance as growing in importance as education becomes increasingly internationalized: for example by helping to provide information and advice on international study opportunities. A similar motivation under-pinned the creation in 2003 by the European Commission of a web site portal to provide information on learning opportunities throughout Europe.


Labor market goals:

As with learning goals, countries often expressed the importance of career guidance for labor market policies in quite general terms. For example, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom argued that it is important in helping to improve labor market outcomes or labor market efficiency. Denmark argued that it can help to reduce the effects of labor market destabilization. Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Korea and Spain indicated that it can help to prevent or reduce unemployment. Some countries also argued that career guidance is an important part of policies that support adjustments to the broad changes that are occurring in labor markets. Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands saw it as important in helping to deal with the effects of an ageing society, or in reducing early retirement. Korea and the United Kingdom saw career guidance as important in helping to support the notion of a lifelong career, as opposed to a lifelong job. Austria, Finland, Germany and Norway argued that it can support the growing internationalization of the labor market. Canada believed that career guidance can help address the impact of migration on the labor market.


Social equity goals:

Somewhat less frequently, countries argued that career guidance can help to achieve a number of social equity goals: both within the education and the labor market. Australia and the United Kingdom argued that it can help to promote greater social inclusion. Denmark and Spain argued that it can address the needs of marginalized groups and of the disadvantaged. Finland, Germany and Norway believed that career guidance is important in supporting the social integration of migrants and ethnic minorities.


Labor market benefits of career guidance:

Many of the ways that career guidance could help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the labor market are similar to the ways it might help to achieve learning goals. For example, career guidance commonly:

1. Helps people to understand their interests, abilities and qualifications so that they seek jobs that they are likely to have a chance of obtaining, will enjoy and will do well: and to avoid looking for ones that they might not be able to get, would not enjoy or would not be good at;

2. Helps people to find out about what is involved in occupations, so that they are more likely to know which ones they might like and be good at;

3. Helps people to find out about particular jobs that are available and how they can apply for them;

4. Teaches people how to assess the short- and long-term consequences of particular types of occupational choices;

5. Makes information about the labor market, and education systems, more accessible by organizing it, systematizing it, and making it available when and where people need it;

6. Teaches people how to search for, understand and evaluate information about occupations.



Career guidance could help to improve the match between supply and demand by helping people to search for a better fit between their talents & qualifications and available work opportunities. Unemployment could be reduced if such interventions helped to reduce the incidence of voluntary employment terminations or periods of job search (thus reducing frictional unemployment); or if they encouraged those made redundant to improve their qualifications or to seek new types of work in different regions (thus addressing structural unemployment).


Social Equity benefits:

There are also strong conceptual arguments in support of the contribution that career guidance can make to social equity. Many career guidance activities attempt to maximize the use that people make of their talents, regardless of their gender, social background or ethnic origin. Disadvantaged groups are likely to be less familiar with educational and labor market information than more advantaged groups. They may be more under-confident in, unskilled in, or unused to negotiating access to complex learning systems. They may need more help in finding opportunities that can maximize their talents, and in overcoming barriers to accessing these opportunities.


Human capital benefits:

People’s knowledge and skills play a strong role in economic growth of a country. The importance of human capital as a source of economic growth appears to be increasing. Traditionally human capital has been defined largely in terms of people’s productive capacity and characteristics: in other words in terms of “skills”, broadly defined. Newer and wider ways of thinking about human capital point out that less than half of earnings variation in OECD countries can be accounted for by educational qualifications and readily measurable skills. It argues that a significant part of the remainder may be explained by people’s ability to build, and to manage their skills. The characteristics that are important in the development of human capital include the ability to acquire skills: in other words, to learn, to identify one’s learning needs, and to manage one’s learning. They also include the ability to understand how best to use these skills. Included in this category are career planning, job search and career-management skills. There is a close harmony between this wider view of human capital and some notions of employability. Seen in this wider context, it seems that many aspects of career guidance have the potential to contribute significantly to national policies for the development of human capital.


Career guidance as personal service:

Traditionally, career guidance in schools has been viewed largely as a personal service, provided at key decision points, and a support to the curriculum rather than part of it. It has mainly been delivered through personal interviews, sometimes supported by psychometric testing. This has made it expensive to provide to large numbers, and so has limited its availability. Personal career guidance services in schools have commonly suffered from further constraints. The focus has tended to be on educational decision making, often with little attention to the occupational and longer-term career choices that flow from particular educational pathways. In particular, where career guidance services are wholly school-based, links with the labor market can be weak. And those who are planning to enter tertiary education may receive greater attention than the job-bound.


Outside agency based career guidance:

A response in some countries to the above mentioned issues has been for personal career guidance to be provided by an agency based outside the school. The potential advantages of this include the possibility of career guidance having closer links to the labor market, the likelihood that career guidance will have a clear identity, separate from other forms of guidance, and the increased possibility that guidance will be independent of the interests of the educational institution. A strong example of career guidance in schools that is provided by an external agency is Germany. Strong external support to schools is also provided in the United Kingdom through Connexions, formerly the Careers Service, and in the Czech Republic where the public employment service plays a strong role in providing career guidance to schools as part of the national strategy to address youth unemployment. There, research by the National Institute of Vocational Education has shown that students rely more heavily upon the employment service for assistance than they do upon in-school services. Some involvement by the public employment service in school career guidance services can also be observed in Luxembourg.


Career guidance in curriculum:

In recent years there has been a trend for career guidance based upon personal interviews to be supplemented with a curriculum-based approach. An emphasis upon lifelong learning and sustained employability greatly enhances the case for such an approach.  Most countries now include programs of career education within the curriculum. These vary in content. Some (in Germany, for example) focus mainly on understanding the world of work and its demands. Most, however, also include attention to self awareness and the development of skills for making decisions and managing transitions. In a lifelong context, this broader approach is highly desirable.


Public employment service:

Traditionally, career guidance services for adults have been largely concentrated in public employment services. The major users of such services have been the unemployed, as well as other groups on the edge of the labor market such as disabled people. Services for such groups tend to focus on getting them a job as quickly as possible in order to reduce unemployment levels and income-security payments (and, in cases where there are concerns about overall labor shortages, to increase labor force participation rates). Sometimes help with job placement is offered on a self-service basis. Sometimes training is required before people can be placed in jobs. This can be in job-seeking skills, in basic skills, or in specific vocational skills. Training is frequently preceded by some employment counseling, partly to advise people, but also to decide how much training the state is prepared to provide. This commonly leads to a case-managed action plan which is required in order to maintain eligibility for income support. In other words, the counseling often performs gatekeeping and policing functions in relation to public resources. It is not just to help the individual make decisions, but also to make institutional decisions about the individual.


Planning career paths for gifted and talented youth:

Multipotentiality and early emergers:

Although parents and teachers may be concerned about academic planning for gifted and talented young people, they often assume that career planning will take care of itself. Students may have many choices available because of multiple gifts or a particular talent, and a career choice in that area seems inevitable. The perception is that there is no need for career planning and the student is simply expected to make an occupational decision around the sophomore year of college and then follow through on the steps necessary to attain that goal. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that youthful brilliance in one or more areas does not always translate into adult satisfaction and accomplishment in working life. Studies with such diverse groups as National Merit Scholars (Watley, 1969), Presidential Scholars (Kaufmann, 1981), and graduates of gifted education programs (Kerr, 1985) have shown that the path from education to career is not always smooth, and it may be complicated by social-emotional problems and needs of gifted students that differ from those of more typical students. Multipotentiality is the ability to select and develop any number of career options because of a wide variety of interests, aptitudes, and abilities. The broad range of opportunities available tends to increase the complexity of decision making and goal setting, and it may actually delay career selection. Multipotentiality is most commonly a concern of students with moderately high IQs (120-140), those who are academically talented, and those who have two or more outstanding but very different abilities such as violin virtuosity and mathematics precocity. As opposed to multipotentiality, early emergers are children who have extremely focused career interests. A passion for an idea and an early commitment to a career area are common childhood characteristics of eminent individuals in a wide variety of professions; thus, early emergence should not be thought of as a problem of career development, but rather as an opportunity that may be acted upon, neglected, or, unfortunately, sometimes destroyed. Acting upon early emergence means noticing an unusually strong talent or enthusiasm, providing training in skills necessary to exercise that talent, providing resources, and keeping an open mind about the future of the talent or interest. Neglecting early emergence means overlooking the talent or interest or failing to provide education and resources. Destroying the early emerger’s passion may not be easy, but belittling the talent or interest (“What makes you think you can become an anthropologist?”) may easily extinguish the flame. Insisting on well-roundedness or disallowing needed training (e.g., refusing to allow a mathematically precocious child to accelerate in math) may diminish the passion. Overly enthusiastic encouragement and pressure may also remove the intrinsic pleasure the child feels in the interest or talent area. The multipotential student seems unfocused, delaying, and indecisive, whereas the early emerger is focused, driven, and almost too decisive. Both types carry with them dangers and opportunities. Skillful career education and guidance can help ensure that neither multipotentiality nor early emergence leads to difficulty in career planning and development.


Career planning for Minority Gifted Students:

Ethnic or religious minority gifted students have special career planning needs as well as needs related to multipotentiality or early emergence. Minority students are less likely to have been selected for gifted education programs and less likely to perform well on standardized achievement tests than their nonminority peers. In addition, they may have lower career aspirations because of lower societal expectations. Nevertheless, the patterns of leadership and out-of-class accomplishments of gifted minority students are very similar to those of nonminority gifted students. Minority gifted students are active leaders in other communities. Therefore, career counseling for these students may be most effective when it focuses on raising career aspirations and emphasizes out-of-class accomplishments as indicators of possible career directions. Career planning must also go hand in hand with building a strong ethnic identity if later conflict between ethnic identity and achievement in majority society is to be avoided.


Career planning for Gifted Girls and Women:

Persisting sex role stereotypes and the continued socialization of girls for secondary roles means that, despite great gains in certain fields such as medicine and law, gifted girls are less likely than gifted boys to achieve their full potential. Although gifted girls outperform gifted boys in terms of grades, gifted boys achieve higher scores on college admission examinations. Compared to gifted boys, gifted girls are underprepared academically, having taken fewer mathematics and science courses and less challenging courses in social studies. As a result, they have fewer options for college majors and career goals. Bright women apparently let go of career aspirations gradually, first through underpreparation and later through decisions that may put the needs of husbands and families before their own. Gifted women fall behind gifted men in salary, status, and promotions throughout their working lives. In order to ensure that gifted girls have the greatest possible chance to fulfill their potential, career planning should emphasize rigorous academic preparation, particularly in mathematics and science; maintaining high career aspirations; and identifying both internal and external barriers to the achievement of career goals.


The system theory framework (STF), a theory of career development:

The Systems Theory Framework (STF; McMahon, 2002; McMahon & Patton, 1995; Patton, 1997; Patton & McMahon, 1999, 2006) is not designed to be a theory of career development; rather it is construed as an overarching framework within which all concepts of career development described in the plethora of career theories can be usefully positioned and utilized in theory and practice. Central to the STF is the individual system within which is depicted a range of intrapersonal influences on career development, such as personality, ability, gender, and sexual orientation. Some of these influences have received considerable attention by career theorists and others have not. As individuals do not live in isolation, the individual system is connected with influences that comprise the individual’s social system as well as the broader environmental/societal system. While the influence of many factors, such as geographic location and political decisions, on career development is less well understood within the theoretical literature, their influence on career development may be profound. The STF presents career development as a dynamic process, depicted through its process influences and recursiveness change over time and chance as seen in the figure below.

Fundamental to understanding the STF is the notion that career development system is an open system. An open system is subject to influence from outside and may also influence that which is beyond its boundaries. Such interaction is termed recursiveness in the STF, which in diagrammatic form is depicted by broken lines that represent the permeability of the boundaries of each system. It is well acknowledged that influences on an individual may change over time. The final process influence, chance, is depicted on the STF diagram as lightning flashes, reflecting an increased recognition of the part chance plays in career development. All of the systems of influence are located within the context of time – past, present and future – all of which are inextricably linked; past influences the present, and together past and present influence the future.


The relationship between guidance and counseling:

There is considerable similarity and overlap between guidance and counseling since “counseling skills underpin good guidance practice” (Watts & Kidd, 2000). However, the two concepts are not the same. Hui (2002) describes ‘guidance’ as helping students in their whole-person development and ‘counseling’ as helping students to cope with distress and confusion. Counseling in fact denotes a more therapeutic and personalized intervention, whereas guidance “embraces a larger range of activities” (Herr, Cramer & Niles, 2004).


Career counseling can be seen as very much an evolving profession. In reality it has emerged as a profession in its own right only comparatively recently. Herr (1997) explains that for much of its history, career counseling was rarely differentiated from vocational or career guidance, and that it was not until the 1960s and 1970s that the term ‘career guidance and counseling’ sufficiently differentiated the two elements.. It is only in the last twenty years that calls have been made for expanded views of career counseling in response to changes in society, and increasing attention is being paid to changing definitions of career counseling.

Herr (1997) distinguishes five observations about the changes in career counseling. They are that:

1. Its principal content is the perceptions, anxieties, information deficits, work personalities, competencies, and motives that persons experience in their interactions with their external environment;

2. Career counseling is not a singular process, but a term used to summarize a range of interventions;

3. Career counseling is no longer conceived as a process principally focused on ensuring that adolescents make a wise choice of an initial job;

4. Career counseling may be considered the preferred intervention of choice, but may be one of a program of interventions … to deal with emotional or behavioral disorders that accompany or confound the career problem;

5. Career counseling may best be thought of as a continuum of intervention processes. Herr notes that these changes in the content and processes of career counseling have not occurred in a vacuum; rather they are in response to the prevailing conditions in society.


The use of a System Theory in career counseling:

Framework for understanding career development has implications for the practice of career counseling as it requires career counselors to make the difficult move from a comfortable traditional worldview to the emerging worldview with its different account of causality (Patton & McMahon, 1999). In using the approach, career counselors need to combine traditional approaches with the ability to think in circular rather than linear terms as seen in the figure below. The notion of circular feedback processes shaping and reshaping systems through subtle feedback is common in some fields of counseling (such as family therapy), yet comparatively new in the field of career counseling. The interaction between the client and the counselor, that is, the counseling relationship itself, can be conceptualized as a system in its own right. In fact counselors become an element of the system of influences on the career development of the individual, and the individual becomes an element of the system of influences on the counselor. In this system of interaction, the counselor and the individual use language to co-construct the meaning of career for the individual in counseling. The career counseling process centers on meaning, with language as the medium (Patton & McMahon, 1999; Peavy, 2004).

The figure above portrays the complexity of the career counseling process and its place in the social and environmental-societal systems. Just as the career counselor exists within his/her own ever-changing system of influences, so too does the client. Thus, part of the career counselor’s role is to understand the influences relevant to his/her own career story; that is, his/her own system of career influences. Career counseling constitutes the meeting of two separate systems and the formation of a new system, the therapeutic system as seen in the figure above. The boundaries of each system must be permeable enough to allow a relationship to develop and dialogue and resulting meaning to occur, yet impermeable enough for both parties to maintain their individuality. Thus, the boundary between the counselor system and the client system needs to be maintained However, as the relationship between members of the therapeutic system develops, the boundary between the client system and the counselor system may become less clear. Counselors who lose sight of this are in danger of imposing their own values on clients or manipulating them, or, alternatively, being manipulated by the client. Thus, the career counselor need a clear understanding of their own stories formed through interaction with their own system of influences, past, present, and future, before they can facilitate exploration of the client’s life narratives, including the meaning of career and work in their lives.  It is recognized that all individuals belong to and interrelate with multiple groups, and the counselor must be aware of the unique pattern of these social system influences in each client if counseling is to be successful (Peavy, 1998). At a broader level, career counseling takes place within the environmental-societal system and represents a recursive interaction between the counselor and a range of systems. The figure above illustrates the interconnections between two systems of influences and the positioning of the interconnections between broader systems of influences shared by each individual system (that of the counselor and the client). Systems theory encourages interventions at levels of the system other than that of the individual, and raises the potential for career counselors to be more proactive at this broader systems level. For example, career counselors may work with a family or an organization in the belief that interventions anywhere in the system will interact with other elements of the system to bring about change. In addition they may become advocates for clients with particular needs; for example, individuals of low socioeconomic and/or minority status.




Vocational Counselors (career counselors):

Career counseling is the process of helping the candidates to select a course of study that may help them to get into job or make them employable. A career counselor helps candidates to get into a career that is suited to their aptitude, personality, interest and skills. So it is the process of making an effective correlation between the internal psychology of a candidate with the external factors of employability and courses. Career counselors work with people from various walks of life, such as adolescents seeking to explore career options, or experienced professionals contemplating a career change. Career counselors typically have a background in vocational psychology or industrial/organizational psychology.


In a broad sense, anyone who helps a person with a career problem is a counselor. Parents, religious leaders, teachers, employers and supervisors—all help direct vocational choice and performance. However, vocational counselor is applied more strictly to a person who has had training in psychology with emphasis on vocational problems and may have an M.A. or Ph.D. degree. Counselors may be employed by schools, religious organizations, government agencies, charitable and correctional institutions, or private counseling agencies. In some states a counselor is required to have a license in order to practice. Career counselors usually provide career counseling outside the school setting. Their chief focus is helping individuals with career decisions. Vocational counselors explore and evaluate the client’s education, training, work history, interests, skills, and personality traits. They may arrange for aptitude and achievement tests to help the client make career decisions. They also work with individuals to develop their job-search skills and assist clients in locating and applying for jobs. In addition, career counselors provide support to people experiencing job loss, job stress, or other career transition issues.


School counselor:

A school counselor is a counselor and an educator who works in elementary (primary), middle, and high schools to provide academic, career, college access, and personal/social competencies to students. In some countries, school counseling is provided by educational specialists (for example, Botswana, China, Finland, Israel, Malta, Nigeria, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey and United States). In other cases, school counseling is provided by classroom teachers who either have such duties added to their typical teaching load or teach only a limited load that also includes school counseling activities (for example- India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Zambia). School counselors provide pupils with career, personal, social and educational counseling. School counselors assist students of all levels, from elementary school to postsecondary education. They advocate for students and work with other individuals and organizations to promote the academic, career, personal, and social development of children and youth. School counselors help students evaluate their abilities, interests, talents, and personalities to develop realistic academic and career goals. Counselors use interviews, counseling sessions, interest and aptitude assessment tests, and other methods to evaluate and advise students. They also operate career information centers and career education programs. Often, counselors work with students who have academic and social development problems or other special needs.


Vocational guidance work can be ac­complished in three phases, namely, (1) Collecting of information or data (2) Rendering guidance on the bases of this information and (3) Follow-up programme. First of all, necessary information regarding the nature of the child like his abilities, interests, aptitudes, personality characteristics and cir­cumstances of life has to be obtained carefully. On the other side, the guidance worker also tries to get all the adequate and relevant information regarding the world of work and job opportunities. He makes himself well informed by having living contacts- with all the current literature and publications. He has contacts with the employment bureau, state and central Bureaus of Guidance & Counselling and is well acquainted with the current trends of employment market and the demand & supply position. Equipped with all such information and knowledge, he may engage himself in the actual guidance work. For this purpose, he may utilize both Individual Guidance and Group Guidance methods. Pupils are informed about the world of work and Job opportunities through lecture, display of literature and pamphlets of library readings. They are now helped to match their individual characteristics with the requirement of different Jobs or occupations and thus helped to make adequate vocational choices. Fur­ther, they are helped to select courses and activities related to their vocational choices.


Vocational Guidance activities target individuals who are:

1. About to make a choice with respect to their education and vocation,

2. In search of new fields of study/training,

3. Already employed but dissatisfied with their current occupation, hence in search of new areas of training and professional development,

4. Unemployed or have lost their jobs for whatever reason and wish to resume employment and

5. Threatened with social exclusion owing to personal circumstances or misfortune


Career guidance and Mentor:

I think mentors are very important at every stage of a career. A mentor would see you in ways your co-workers might not, and they were more likely to be completely honest. The more successful you become, the more you need someone to sit you down and say, “Hey, you have a blind spot in this. Here’s what you need to do”. What mentors do is they let you see yourself as others see you, and report that back to you so there’s a clear idea of how you’re perceived. There’s a big difference between a consultant, who is a paid expert who tells you how to do the right thing the best way, and a mentor, who is someone you seek out when you want something and you need guidance. Your mentor is someone who holds you accountable to what you say you want.


Students can get information regarding career guidance through various sources:

School counselor




Life-skill training


Work visits (on-site observations)

Guidance sources

VET School

Business/marketing education teachers


Outside the classroom, students and their success coaches should:

1. Use the Family Connection web portal and toolkit to engage students in planning for academic success.

2. Have access to information customized to include local information.

3. Receive communications at critical stages and milestones.

4. Collaborate online with the ability for parents to make suggestions or approve academic plans.

5. Reflect on tasks and programs.

6. Be provided with a mechanism to ask for help when completing tasks or programs.


What to look for when choosing a college:

Choosing a college can be a daunting and stressful decision in any young person’s life. Deciding what you are going to study, and where, is your first step to ensuring you will graduate with the right skills to find that all-important job and build your career. It is vital to do your research and find the college that is the right match for you, in terms of cost, options, accessibility, quality and reputation. The process of researching and selecting a college should be done early, as making a rushed or ill-informed choice can result in a costly mistake. Even with a limited budget, you need to get the best quality you can afford and make sure you don’t waste precious money and time being taken for a ride by a fly-by-night college. Choosing a college is a major decision. Explore your interests and take the time to find the college that is right for you and puts you on a path to a brighter future.


When evaluating your options, the following should be considered:

1. Does the college offer degrees, certificates as well as diplomas?

2. What is the accreditation status of the degrees, certificates, diplomas and courses on offer? Ensure that proof can be provided on request.

3. What are the cost implications? Consider registration, study material and tuition fees. What are the hidden costs?

4. Does the college offer flexible payment plan options?

5. Does the college offer late registration options?

6. Are you able to take a short break in studies and pick up on further modules as you may need to?

7. What study resources are freely available to the students? Libraries, computer facilities and internet are important factors.

8. Does the college offer extracurricular activities and other social clubs that will enhance your student life?

9. Does the campus location suit you?

10. Are students uploaded to the National Learner’s Records Database (NLRD)?

11. What level of support services are provided to students?


Websites for students to get proper career advice:

Students need to learn about themselves, develop a vision of their future and collaborate with adults who can provide a support system for overcoming challenges. A critical factor in any student graduating college and career ready is his or her support network. This network of peers and adults provide ongoing encouragement, direction, feedback, and accountability to their student’s plan and resulting progress outcomes. There are many websites helpful to future college students. Naviance is specifically designed to enhance and extend the power of student support networks.  Not only do students and their parents have access to the student’s plan and results, so does the student’s counselor and teachers.  Schools and districts can leverage this network by requiring student plan reviews by a student’s network – a virtual student-parent-teachers-counselors conference, which can be a particularly effective way to engage key stakeholders at all stages of the student’s college readiness journey. Many schools in America use Naviance for college and career planning. The tool is open to students and parents 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Naviance is a comprehensive website that students and parents can use to help in making plans about courses, colleges and careers. Naviance empowers parents to assist their children in the career and college preparation process – from early goal setting to critical transitions, Naviance supports the students in and out of the classroom.


The Relationship of Career Guidance to vocational education & training (VET):

The case for closer attention to these issues is particularly strong for two reasons. First, the terminology tends to confuse the relationship between the two concepts. It is not uncommon to find “vocational guidance” being subsumed within, or blurred with, “vocational training”, and for “career education” to be confused with “vocational education”. Second, there is a tendency to think that career guidance is largely irrelevant to VET, which is based on the supposition that career decisions have already been made. However, this supposition is flawed, in a number of important respects, and that career guidance is relevant to some of the key policy issues relating to the development of VET.


Are career education and vocational education the same?

People often use the term career and vocation interchangeably. Does that mean that career education and vocational education are synonymous?  For the sake of explanation, career education is described by adjective ‘broad’ while vocational education is described by adjective ‘narrow’. However, broad is not necessarily good and narrow is not necessarily bad. Career education is broad in its coverage of occupations to achieve the goal of providing sufficient information and experience for career decision making. Vocational education is narrow in that its goal is to provide skill, knowledge, training and social interaction competencies to prepare individuals for entry into paid employment in a specific job.  Career education seeks to remove the assumed distinction between the academic and the vocational learning programs, blending them to serve all learners at all levels of instructions in their quest for productive careers and rewarding life. The primary goal in career education is to enable every person to make informed choices as he/she develops his/her own career. Career education extends the academic world to the world of works. Career education is all inclusive in that it encompasses vocational education, academic education and professional education as well as career awareness, exploration and selection. Career education is for all students; vocational education is for students who wish to acquire skills for a particular job. Career education spans early childhood and adulthood; vocational education usually begins no sooner than upper secondary school. Career education emphasizes unpaid and paid employment; vocational education emphasizes paid employment in jobs that require training at less than the bachelor’s degree. Career education concepts are integrated into the ongoing curriculum; vocational education curriculum has as its core substantive content in a trade area.


Career guidance is effectively acting as bridge between VET programs and the world of work, viewing the student as an active agent in the relationship. Its role is to make sure that student demand is well-informed in terms of the labor market. This means that it needs to be supported by high-quality information. Career guidance is relevant to the quality and effectiveness of VET prior to entering a VET program and within the VET program. In some respects, career guidance is more important for students considering VET options than for those entering general education options, because their choices can carry tighter career implications. However, general education choices have career implications too; and both groups should have access to the full range of choices. This is particularly important where efforts are being made to secure greater parity of esteem between academic/general and VET pathways, including greater flexibility between them. Accordingly, career guidance provision for those considering VET should be integrated into provision for all. If career guidance services are to play a strong role in relation to VET, this has implications for the training of career guidance practitioners. This is a complex area, because such practitioners cover a range of roles, with different professional affiliations. In some cases they define themselves primarily as psychologists, as teachers, or as labor market administrators, with any career guidance training being subsumed within, or added to, their core professional training; in other cases they represent a distinctive professional group of their own, with their own professional training. One of the problems in securing adequate attention to VET in careers programs prior to entry to VET is that most career practitioners have been trained not within the VET system but within academic programs, often within psychology. The move towards more competence-based approaches to training of career practitioners may be helpful in this respect. In the UK, such practitioners may now be trained through National Vocational Qualifications instead of, or alongside, academic qualifications. It is also important that training of career practitioners should include significant attention to the gathering, interpretation and use of labor market information which will make career practitioners credible to clients. Yet within psychology-based programs, this area has often been neglected. We must provide career guidance accessible to all, informed by knowledge of labor market outcomes.


It is generally agreed that in contemporary society children and young adults are in need of guidance and counseling on a very wide range of issues. Too often, young people find the period of transition from school to work to be a time of crisis. They may perhaps have looked forward to leaving school but frequently find themselves quite unprepared to face the realities of the transition, ignorant of the choice and nature of the occupations available to them and bewildered by the thought of the ordeal that lies ahead of them. In addition, they sometimes find that they have read subjects that are unrelated to the requirements of the occupation they wish to follow. Careful long-term preparation for this challenging phase of their lives could transform adolescence from a time of crisis into a period of planned transition that is fulfilling and exciting. Such a systematic preparation could greatly assist young adults in their task of adapting to a new environment and help to ensure that they find opportunities for personal fulfillment in their future occupations. Surveys of educational and vocational guidance systems have led to broad agreement on the social and psychological factors that form the basis of this process. It is generally agreed that, to be of maximum value, vocational guidance should be accompanied by counseling which is made available to all pupils throughout their schooling and forms a carefully planned program of career orientation. In some countries a program of long-term preparation for career choice is an integral part of the framework of secondary education. Most career orientation courses present work as an important part of an individual’s life. These courses attempt to help pupils make a realistic assessment of their own potential and of future occupational choices both by theoretical study and practical experimentation. The main function of guidance and counseling in career orientation program may be considered as forming a bridge between the world of school and the world of work.


World’s wealth is its people, their skills and knowledge and their potential. Lifelong learning, full development of individual competences and the maintenance of employability are crucial in this respect. Therefore, it is necessary not only to integrate unemployed people into the labor market through learning and better training but also to promote the potential of employed people and support and accompany them in managing their education and career. To achieve these goals, people need to be supported by high quality guidance in general & in continuing education as well as in vocational education & training and in the labor market. In the context of lifelong learning, educational and career guidance is a connecting link between the needs of the citizens and the demands of the educational and labor market.


Career guidance plays a key role in helping labor markets work and education systems meet their goals. It also promotes social equity: recent evidence suggests that social mobility relies on wider acquisition not just of knowledge and skills, but of an understanding about how to use them. In this context, the mission of career guidance is widening, to become part of lifelong learning. Already, services are starting to adapt, departing from a traditional model of a psychology-led occupation interviewing students about to leave school. One key challenge for this changing service is to move from helping students decide on a job or a course, to the broader development of career management skills. For schools, this means building career education into the curriculum and linking it to students’ overall development. A number of countries have integrated it into school subjects. However, career education remains concentrated around the end of compulsory schooling. In upper secondary and tertiary education, services focus on immediate choices rather than personal development and wider decision making, although this too is starting to change in some countries. A second challenge is to make career guidance more widely available throughout adulthood. Such provision is underdeveloped, and used mainly by unemployed people accessing public employment services. Some new services are being linked to adult education institutions, but these are not always capable of offering wide and impartial advice. Efforts to create private markets have enjoyed limited success, yet public provision lacks sufficient funding. Thus creation of career services capable of serving all adults remains a daunting task. Web-based services may help with supply, but these cannot fully substitute for tailored help to individuals.


The advancement of education, training and vocational guidance in various fields must endeavor:

1. To take quality education to the weaker economic sections of the society.

2. To bring all the children of age 5-14 working as the child labor, beggar or house servants to the school with special attention to the girl child.

3. To impart the kind of education that gives them a broad vision of life and creates a sense of belongingness with the whole world.

4. To spread Smile, Education, Self Reliance, and Self Esteem to everyone who has been deprived from it.


Realities of labor market:

The reality of the labor market is quite different. Gray (1997) gives this analysis:

1. Among college students who graduate with a three to four-year degree, only two of three will find employment related to their field of study.

2. Among college students who graduate with a professional credential (e.g., for teaching, engineering, or accounting), only one in two will find related employment.

3. A three to four-year degree does not guarantee a high income.

4.Although college graduates have higher average earnings than high school graduates, only some of the variation in earnings can be attributed to education; supply and demand are the most important factors.

5. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Managerial/Professional job grouping is indeed at the top of the salary ladder. But the next rung down on the ladder is Craft, Precision Metal, and Specialized Repair occupations in virtually every industry and every work environment like construction drafter, medical lab technician, manufacturing systems operator, computer repairperson, and paralegal that pay well but require specific occupational skills available in secondary and postsecondary vocational-technical programs or apprenticeship programs.


History of vocational education:

The idea of vocational education can be traced to apprenticeships. Blacksmiths carpenters, merchants, and other trades have existed almost since the advent of civilization, and there have always been apprenticeship-style relationships where specific techniques and trades have been passed down to members of the younger generation. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the apprenticeship system and the home were the principal sources of vocational education. Since then society has been forced by the decline of handwork and the specialization of occupational functions to develop institutions of vocational education. Manual training, involving general instruction in the use of hand tools, developed initially in Scandinavia (1866) in response to the doctrines of Friedrich Froebel and Johann Pestalozzi. It became popular in the elementary schools of the United States after 1880. Vocational education as we understand it today started in the early twentieth century. The industrialized countries of the West were the first to notice the benefits of having a specialized skilled work force and diverted funds to institutions that taught such skills. For most of the twentieth century, vocational education focused on specific trades such as an automobile mechanic or welder, and was therefore associated with the activities of lower social classes. As a consequence, it attracted a level of stigma, and is often looked down upon as being of inferior quality to standard post-secondary education. Towards the end of the twentieth century a new trend helped the appreciation of vocational education. Community colleges soon started to offer vocational education courses granting certificates and associate degrees in specialized fields, usually at a lower cost and with comparable, if not better, curricula.  Good quality careers advice is needed more than ever to help young people navigate what is an ever more complex labor market. At the post-secondary level vocational education is typically provided by an institute of technology, or by a local community college.



There are many legal definitions of vocational education (i.e., how vocational education is defined by law). These legal definitions are critical since they specify how, for what purpose, and to what extent federal monies may be spent for vocational education. All too often this legal definition is interpreted by state and local officials as the only definition of vocational education.


Defining VET as a sector within the education system poses a number of difficulties. For the most part, general and academic education is seen as that which builds analytical skills, knowledge and critical thinking, while VET develops craftsmanship, practical experience and practical problem-solving. However, this simple distinction does not hold up to scrutiny. Critical thinking and analytical skills are needed in the case of a good plumber or electrician who must routinely make judgments in order to solve problems. Equally, a good surgeon needs a large set of practical skills to masterfully operate a patient. These simple distinctions can also lead to confusion, and academic drift of vocational institution or a vocationalisation of higher education. Vocational education may be classified as teaching procedural knowledge. This can be contrasted with declarative knowledge, as used in education in a usually broader scientific field, which might concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge, characteristic of tertiary education.


Vocational education is defined as training for a specific vocation in industry or agriculture or trade. Vocational education [or Vocational Education and Training (VET), also called Career and Technical Education (CTE)] prepares learners for careers that are based in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and totally related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation; hence the term, in which the learner participates. It is sometimes referred to as technical education, as the learner directly develops expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology. Vocational Education and Career Education are terms used interchangeably but their difference is already discussed vide supra. Vocational education can be acquired at the secondary (high school) level or postsecondary (after high school) level and can interact with the apprenticeship system. At the postsecondary level, vocational education is typically provided by an institute of technology, a local community college, a career training college, or a trade school. Increasingly, vocational education is recognized in terms of prior learning and partial academic credit towards an associate’s degree; however, VET alone does not generally require a bachelor’s degree and is not usually considered to fall under the traditional definition of an academic higher education. Increasingly, vocational education can be recognized in terms of recognition of prior learning and partial academic credit towards tertiary education (e.g., at a university) as credit; however, it is rarely considered in its own form to fall under the traditional definition of a higher education. Until the end of the 20th century, vocational education focused on specific trades such as automobile mechanics, a plumbing, welding, or carpentry. However, as the 21st-century labor market becomes more specialized and economies demand higher levels of skill, governments and businesses are investing in the future of vocational education through publicly funded training organizations and subsidized apprenticeship or trainee programs. Vocational education has diversified and now exists in industries such as retail, tourism, information technology, funeral services, and cosmetics, as well as in the traditional crafts and cottage industries. Many trades are highly paid and always in demand.


Moodie (2002) analyses existing definitions in four dimensions – epistemological, teleological, hierarchical and pragmatic. He argues that a definition is needed on all four levels, stating that ‘one may consider vocational education and training to be the development and application of knowledge and skills for middle-level occupations needed by society from time to time’. Such a pragmatic definition seems to match the approach of UNESCO in its Revised Recommendation on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), giving preference to the term ‘technical and vocational education and training’ over the term ‘vocational education and training’. The mentioned recommendation states that ‘technical and vocational education’ is ‘used as a comprehensive term referring to those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life (UNESCO, 2001).


Vocation means a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling or a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular career. Vocational education means educational training that provides practical experience in a particular occupational field, as agriculture, home economics, or industry. Vocational education prepares learners for careers in manual or practical activities, traditionally non-academic and only related to a specific trade, occupation, or “vocation”. In the past, such education was in the form of apprenticeships, in which young people learned from the master the skills necessary for particular trades. Thus, it was associated with the lower social classes as compared to the classical education that was received by gentlemen. Following the industrialization of the nineteenth century, however, vocational education began to be introduced into the school educational system. Vocational Exploration Training  is through assessments such as interest inventories and/or counseling, a process of identifying occupations or occupational areas in which a person may find satisfaction and potential, and for which his or her aptitudes and other qualifications may be appropriate.


Vocational education is defined as a practically illustrated and attempted job or career skill instruction. As such, a variety of components fall under the vocational education umbrella: agricultural education, business education, family and consumer sciences, health occupations education, marketing education, technical education, technology education, and trade and industrial education. The vocational curriculum can be identified as a combination of classroom instruction, hands-on laboratory work and on-the-job training; augmented by an active network of student organizations. Vocational preparation must always be viewed against the backdrop of the needs of society and of the individual. While meeting the demands of the economy, the abilities of individuals must be utilized to the fullest. Meeting the internalized job needs of individuals is a crucial objective of vocational education.




Vocationalism is defined as the method used by schools, particularly high schools, to organize their curricula so the students may develop skills, both vocational and academic, that will give them the strategic labor market advantages needed to compete for good jobs. Overall enrollment in vocational courses has fallen. However, an incoming current has brought a growing number of participants into new programs and curricula. While traditional vocational offerings have been geared toward immediate entry into specific occupations, new programs and course sequences are intended to prepare students for both colleges and careers, by combining a challenging academic curriculum with development of work-related knowledge skill.


Stevenson (2005) researching on VET in Australia remarks that wherever one looks, the place for the vocational appears to be similar – the vocational is at the bottom of a hierarchy of knowledge and value, it is a stream of learning available to the “lower achiever”, it is governed in a paternalistic way with highly circumscribed degrees of freedom over content and process, it is legitimated solely in industrial and other utilitarian terms, rather than in the connections among different kinds of meaning making, and it is preserved for occupations of lower status. Instead, Stevenson adopts a view from John Dewey in that a ‘vocation means nothing but such a direction of life activities as renders them perceptibly significant to a person, because of the consequences they accomplish, and also useful to his associates’. However, while such a definition does raise the status of what ‘vocational’ is, it does not solve the practical problem of difficulties in being able to identify VET provision in certain institutions. In such an approach, vocationalism is important for all types of studies. Indeed, even for academics, meaning to their own work often arises in application.



The term training refers to the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result of the teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. It forms the core of apprenticeships and provides the backbone of content at institutes of technology (also known as technical colleges or polytechnics). In addition to the basic training required for a trade, occupation or profession, observers of the labor-market recognize as of 2008 the need to continue training beyond initial qualifications: to maintain, upgrade and update skills throughout working life.  One can generally categorize such training as on-the-job or off-the-job:

1. On-the-job training takes place in a normal working situation, using the actual tools, equipment, documents or materials that trainees will use when fully trained. On-the-job training has a general reputation as most effective for vocational work.

2. Off-the-job training takes place away from normal work situations — implying that the employee does not count as a directly productive worker while such training takes place. Off-the-job training has the advantage that it allows people to get away from work and concentrate more thoroughly on the training itself. This type of training has proven more effective in inculcating concepts and ideas.


Vocational training is training for a specific career or trade, excluding the professions. Vocational training focuses on practical applications of skills learned, and is generally unconcerned with theory or traditional academic skills. A large part of the education in vocational schools is hands-on training. Vocational training thus provides a link between education and the working world. Traditionally, it is usually provided either at the high school level or in a postsecondary trade school. Besides traditional vocational education, other excellent alternatives include apprenticeships, community college programs, the education and training offered by the military services, and distance learning courses.


Subtle difference between vocational training and technical training:

While the major difference between technical and vocational training may seem somewhat semantic in nature, it is mostly related to the subjects each focuses on. Vocational training often refers to education and training that focuses more on practical skills and being able to perform tasks related to working in a particular industry. Vocational training is a form of training and education that is more practical than academic and often focuses on skills and abilities a person needs to perform a job. Much of this training has often been aimed at preparing students for work in construction, manufacturing, and similar jobs that require skilled labor. Technical training is similar in nature, but the focus is on technology and developments made in computers and digital information. While both technical and vocational training are less academic and more practical, vocational training often focuses on manufacturing and construction while technical training is more computer-oriented. The other major difference between technical and vocational training is the outlook for each type of training in different countries. In countries like the U.S., for example, a great deal of effort has been expended to reduce the focus on vocational training in schools as manufacturing jobs have largely been outsourced outside of the country. Technical training, on the other hand, has become increasingly important as more and more jobs involve using computers for numerous tasks and training for such positions has become more specialized. In other countries, however, both technical and vocational training have expanded as greater opportunities for construction and manufacturing work have developed alongside computer-based work.


Two types of vocational trainings are available: a) Formal and; b) Non-formal. Formal vocational training follows a structured training program and leads to certificates, diplomas or degrees, recognized by State/Central Government, Public Sector and other reputed concerns. Non-formal vocational training helps in acquiring some marketable expertise, which enables a person to carry out her/his ancestral trade or occupation. In a way through such non-formal vocational training, a person receives vocational training through ‘hereditary’ sources. Often ‘Non-formal’ vocational trainings are also received through ‘other sources’. In such cases training received by a person to pursue a vocation, is not ancestral and is different from the trade or occupation of his/her ancestors.


The vocational education sector has changed considerably over the last fifteen years. The increased involvement of employers in designing competency-based programs, the reconfiguration of the list of available programs, and the major investments made in buildings and material resources at vocational education centers are some examples of the changes made. They were implemented to offer a better response to the needs of the labor market and to prepare a qualified work force able to find and keep employment in a constantly-evolving working environment. Given this context, it is important to ensure that vocational education teachers have an expert understanding of the trade they teach, and continue to update their knowledge. Their expertise must be supported by training in teaching methods that takes into account the special features of the vocational education sector.


Pre-vocational education:

Pre-vocational education means schools combine general education with some specific subjects related to career (vocation).  Pupils follow a general curriculum along with a learning pathway to various sectors including care and welfare; engineering and technology; business and agriculture etc. Different countries have different methods of introduction of pre-vocational education. In some countries, it is introduced at primary school level while most countries introduce at secondary school level. After passing examination of pre-vocational education in secondary school, the successful pupils go for vocational schools/institutes at higher secondary level or college level.


Vocational education is a type of education, after completion of which a person is practically and theoretically prepared for work in a certain profession. It means that a certain professional qualifications have been mastered and there is possibility for further improvement in the relevant professional area. There are three grades of vocational education:

1. Vocational basic education,

2. Vocational secondary education,

3. Vocational higher (tertiary) education.


Vocational basic education is offered by primary schools in some countries. Vocational secondary education is offered by the following: Vocational secondary school, professional secondary schools, trade secondary schools, choreography, arts and music secondary schools, technical schools and some colleges. Tertiary vocational education is an alternative to higher education and is based on upper secondary education and training or equivalent informal and nonformal competence. Tertiary vocational education consists of vocational courses lasting for two to three years. Apart from the traditional colleges of technical management and maritime subjects which are publicly financed (by the county authorities), most of the colleges offering this kind of education are private ones.


A classification of VET:

From a theoretical perspective, VET can be classified in the following categories (Grubb and Ryan, 1999):

1.Pre-employment VET: prepares individuals for the initial entry into employment; in most countries these are traditional programs of vocational and educational training in schools; they are found both in schools and workplaces as dual systems and are often operated by national ministries of education;

2. Upgrade training: provides additional training for individuals who are already employed, as their jobs change, as the technology and work environment become more complex, or as they advance within the company;

3.Retraining: provides training for individuals who have lost their jobs so that they can find new ones, or for individuals who seek new careers to develop the necessary competences for employment; individuals in retraining programs, by definition have already had a labor-market experience; therefore, retraining may not have a direct connection with the occupation they already have;

4. Remedial VET: provides education and training for individuals who are in some way marginal or out of the mainstream labor force; typically those who have not been employed for a long period of time or who do not have any labor-market experience; usually people depending on public income.


Cedefop (2008) offered a distinction which encompasses the previous ones: initial and continuous educational training (IVET and CVET)

1. IVET refers to general or vocational education and training carried out in the initial education system, usually before entering working life. Some training undertaken after entry into working life may be considered as initial training (e.g. retraining). Initial education and training can be carried out at any level in general or vocational education (full-time school-based or alternate training) pathways or apprenticeship;

2. CVET is defined by the area of education or training that comes in after entry into working life and aims to help people to (a) improve or update their knowledge and/or skills; (b) acquire new skills for a career move or retraining; (c) continue their personal or professional development; continuing education and training is part of lifelong learning and may encompass any kind of education: general, specialized or vocational, formal or non-formal, etc.


A study was conducted to find students’ reasons for participating in vocational education.


There’s a growing backlash against the idea that every citizen should aspire to get a three to four-year, general-education college degree, a backlash driven by record-high student debt and the dismal youth employment rate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 17 million Americans with bachelor’s degrees were doing menial work in 2010 that doesn’t require anything close to that level of education. A new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research, examining 18 industrialized nations, confirms that young people who receive vocational education have a higher employment rate than those who receive general education.

But, the researchers conclude, those advantages erode over time, as vocationally educated workers can’t adapt nearly as well to structural changes in the economy and labor market.


Different countries have different methods & different systems of vocational guidance/vocational education and therefore it will be difficult to generalize one system for all. A universal singular VET model which can guarantee the maximum benefits may not exist. Countries differ substantially in the orientation of their education programs. Some countries, in particular in Europe, stress vocational education that develops specific job-related skills in order to prepare students to work in specific occupations. Other countries, like the US, emphasize general education that provides students with broad knowledge and basic skills in mathematics and communication, and serves as the foundation for further learning on the job.  Context and effectiveness are interrelated and VET systems have strong roots in the national culture of each country. The effects of VET occur at micro, meso and macro level, but these levels are strongly interdependent and often difficult to disentangle: positive effects at micro level can generate effects at meso & macro levels and vice versa. Consequently, VET benefits are outcomes occurring at individual, organizational and societal level that must be understood as intertwined and complex.


The figure below shows education and training systems around the world.



The education and training system in India:

The flowchart above shows parallel academic and vocational education system in India. ITI means Industrial Training Institute. According to the Planning commission report for the 11th Five year plan, there are about 5,114 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) imparting training in 57 engineering and 50 non-engineering trades. Of these, 1,896 are State Government-run ITIs while 3,218 are private. The total seating capacity in these ITIs is 742,000. Vocational education consists basically of practical courses through which one gains skills and experience directly linked to a career in future. It helps students to be skilled and in turn, offers better employment opportunities. These trainings are parallel to the other conventional courses of study (like B. Sc., M. Sc. etc.). Vocational trainings in a way give students some work related experiences that many employers look for. While 54% of the Indian population is under 25 years, the average age in China, Europe and Japan is between 30 and 41 years. In India, out of 26.5 million, 10.5 million candidates are unable to clear their class X boards; out of 10.5 million, 8 million fail to clear the class XII boards; out of 8 million, 5 million join higher education, while 3 million disappear. The need for vocational education can no longer be ignored. The biggest problem in India is that Indians tend to prefer degrees to vocational skills. The industry too, does not go by mandates such as certification. Besides, both skilled and unskilled people are hired. So learners don’t see why they need a certification. Compare this with the UK, the largest in vocational education, where certification is a must and you need a license to work.   If Indians do not convert their human asset, it will become a liability. The only way to do it is through vocational education — a blend of both theoretical and hands-on learning, which equips one with skills required for a specific job or profession. Traditionally, imparting vocational skills has been the forte of government-run Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), though there are many private players in this space. India is unveiling National Vocational Education Qualification Framework (NVEQF) that will allow seeking a degree from a school or a college while on work. The new framework to be jointly adopted by the Central Board of Secondary Education and All India Council for Technical Education will help school students who are unable to complete higher education or the students who are not academically bright but have other skill sets. The government plans to run the program in 25% secondary schools and half of the technical education institutions in India with the help of private sector, which will have an important role in curriculum development. Apart from enhancing skills of youth, the program is aimed at increasing the higher education Gross Enrollment Ratio to 30% by 2020 from about 17% in 2009-10. About 220 million children go to school, but only 14 million reach college.


The education and training system in Germany:

The figure above provides a highly simplified overview of the basic structure of the education/training sector in the Federal Republic of Germany, divided by training areas/types of schools. After the four-year primary-school period, which all pupils complete, educational pathways diverge within Germany’s divided school system, which consists of secondary modern schools (Hauptschule), secondary schools (Realschule), grammar schools (Gymnasium) and comprehensive schools (Gesamtschule). The different pathways often reconverge within the dual system, which accepts graduates of special schools, secondary-modern schools, secondary schools, comprehensive schools, vocational schools and grammar schools.


Germany’s dual system:

The dual training principle means periods in school alternating with periods of training in an enterprise. This principle ensures that the trainees acquire theoretical, practical, general and personal skills which are in demand by the labor market. The dual system does not have any formal admission prerequisites: by law, all schoolleavers, regardless of what school-leaving certificates they have, can learn any recognized occupation requiring formal training. In actual fact, however, opportunities for admission, and the actual numbers of people who enter certain occupations, depend on pre-qualification. In the dual system, a combination of learning and working provides the basis for teaching vocational stills. The system seeks to teach theory and practice, and to impart structured knowledge and active competence, in their proper context. The different learning sites involved, the company and the vocational school, interact in keeping with their different emphases, but their tasks are not rigidly divided: school is not reserved solely for teaching theory, and in-company training involves more than simply practice. Under the dual system, vocational schools and companies have a joint educational responsibility. Trainees spend one or two days in vocational school and three or four days in their company.


Chinese vocational guidance:

Vocational education started in China more than 130 years ago. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, vocational education underwent a process of adjustment, rectification, substantiation, reform, improvement and steady development. China’s first Vocational Education Law was promulgated and implemented in 1996, which provides legal guarantee for development and improvement of vocational education.  According to China Statistics Yearbook, there were 11,570 secondary vocational schools around the nation with over 3 million students in 2003. The number of schools rose to 11,813 and that of students crossed 14 million in 2006. At the same time, the number of schools for skilled workers stood at 2,884, while that of students jumped from 2.35 million in 2003 to 3.21 million in 2006. More than a government push, the development of vocational education in China needs corporate support, which may involve cooperation with schools to increase the practical skills of students, offering internship opportunities as well as providing on-the-job training for existing workers. And more important than that is an improvement in salary levels and social status, which will automatically attract more urban youth to the factory floor.


American disdain for VET and new name CTE:

America has a unique disdain for vocational education. It has supported such training since 1917; money now comes from the Perkins Act, which is reauthorized every six years. However, many Americans hate the idea of schoolchildren setting out on career paths—such predetermination, they think, threatens the ethos of opportunity. As wages have risen for those with college degrees, skepticism of VTE has grown too. The overall decline in high school vocational enrollment is evident from student transcript data of the U.S. Between 1982 and 1994 the average number of vocational credits completed by high school graduates declined from 4.7 to 4.0, or from 22 percent to 16 percent of total credits earned in all subjects. The number of students who completed three or more courses in a single vocational program area slipped from 34 percent to 25 percent. Furthermore, students with disabilities, or with low grades, accounted for a growing proportion of vocational course-taking in high schools during this period. By 2005 only one-fifth of high-school students specialized in an industry, compared with one-third in 1982. The share of 17-year-olds aspiring to four-year college, meanwhile, reached 69% in 2003, double the level of 1981. But the fact remains that not every student will graduate from university. Vocational education has been so disparaged that its few advocates have resorted to giving it a new name: “career and technical education” (CTE). Vocational education in general is trying to move on from its past. Educators no longer want it viewed, as one puts it, as “shop class for boys with cigarettes rolled up in their sleeves” –- a lesser diploma aimed at failing students. It is not even called vocational education anymore; now the official term is career and technical education. The curriculum focuses on newer careers, such as computers and information technology. Students must get hands-on experience and pass certification exams devised at least partly by the industries that will employ them. For today’s high school students, computer related fields are hot – about 22,660 students are enrolled in CTE computer courses, while less than 70 are preparing to be plumbers. A lot of the old trade skills are viewed as old fashioned and obsolete. But they’re things we all need to survive and we need to do to keep the city going. You can survive without computer but cannot survive without water. Everybody needs plumber. Americans must understand it.


A more demanding Labor Market in the U.S.:

In 1973, nearly a third of the U.S.’s 91 million workers were high-school dropouts, while another 40 percent had not progressed beyond a high school degree. Thus, people with a high-school education or less made up 72 percent of the nation’s workforce. In an economy in which manufacturing was still dominant, it was possible for those with less education but a strong work ethic to earn a middleclass wage, as 60 percent of high school graduates did. In effect, a high school diploma was a passport to the American Dream for millions of Americans. By 2007, this picture had changed beyond recognition. While the workforce had exploded nearly 70 percent to 154 million workers, those with a high school education or less had shrunk to just 41 percent of the workforce. Put another way, while the total number of jobs in America had grown by 63 million, the number of jobs held by people with no post-secondary education had actually fallen by some 2 million jobs. Thus, over the past of a century, all of the net job growth in America has been generated by positions that require at least some post-secondary education. Figure below shows that since 1973, jobs that require at least some college education have exploded while opportunities for those with just a high school education have shrunk dramatically.

Of course, labor markets in rest of the world are different than the U.S. as far as demand for some post-secondary education is concerned.


Vocational Guidance Education in Full-Time Compulsory Education in Europe:

Vocational guidance education is part of the National Core Curriculum at all levels of education (primary included) as a cross-cutting approach called ‘learning about daily life and practical skills’. The objectives of this approach are to allow pupils to self-evaluate skills and become familiarized with the professional world and to impart knowledge to them about the different professional areas. All teachers at all levels of education have the role of preparing pupils for their future career choices. In all types of educational institution, a separate subject called ‘career counseling’ exists for pupils aged 13-14. It is taught in the framework of the cross-cutting approach ‘learning about daily life and practical skills’. The objective of this subject is to facilitate pupils’ future school and career choices. Pupils receive assistance in formulating and defining their individual interests, in establishing their career objectives and in planning their educational pathways. In upper secondary education, courses are offered which consist of presentations of different trades and careers, aimed at helping pupils to take decisions in terms of their choice of future educational pathways and careers. So there is a striking difference in education systems between America and Europe.


Until the recent past, educational and vocational guidance was perceived simply as the process of giving students some information about their abilities and the needs of the labor markets, so as to enable them to make appropriate decisions and occupational choices. Nowadays, as the reports of many countries show, the emphasis has shifted towards providing students with generic development competencies to cope more effectively with their continuing development as students, workers and citizens. While most of the countries responses revealed a certain uniformity in the definition of the basic concept and general objectives of vocational guidance, in some countries vocational guidance is still considered merely as a system whereby candidates are selected for various occupations. In many countries the vocational guidance covers a wide range of activities designed to help students while attending school to make a vocational choice, and furthermore to assist adults in seeking employment, career development and their further education and training. Throughout the countries, the nature of guidance services is more or less universal, however, the methods differ from level to level and the age groups involved. At lower secondary level, the vocational guidance is usually integrated into subjects such as polytechnical studies or general technical studies or technical orientation, practical arts, initiation to technology, etc. At the upper secondary level it exists as a separate subject with visits to industries, career planning, etc. At both levels this is supported by mass media and concentrates not only on students, but includes parents as well – because of the decisive role they play in the decision of their children. In a number of countries, there is a growing trend to provide educational and vocational counseling and guidance aimed at directing students to appropriate learning opportunities within such flexible systems as bridging courses, modularization and self-study, and the students counseling continues throughout the program of study. Further advice is offered on career opportunities, retraining necessitated by emerging new technological changes in particular enterprises, and career changes related to community or family requirements.


General or vocational education?

This is a “tough choice” in many developing countries. In the human capital framework, general education creates ‘general human capital’ and vocational and technical education ‘specific human capital’. The former is portable across one’s life and from job to job, while the later one is not and hence many advocate general education, as more suitable to the flexible labor force that can change task and even the type of work; but the later one has an advantage, imbibing specific job-relevant skills, that can make the worker more readily suitable for a given job and would make him/her thus more productive.  Hence both are important, and education systems in many countries therefore include both general and vocational streams of education in varying proportions. Leading social scientists have lent strong support for vocational education.  For instance, Thomas Balogh (1969) was emphatic in arguing: “As a purposive factor for rural socio-economic prosperity and progress, education must be technical, vocational and democratic.”  He in fact suggested that even “elementary education must impart technical knowledge to rural youth in an eminently practical way …” The case for VET received much support in the context of the global educational crisis. VET was viewed as the solution to the educational problems in the developing economies. It was believed that many educa­tional problems could be solved by diversifying the secondary education curriculum: the unbridled demand for higher education could be controlled, the financial crisis in education would be eased by reducing pressures on higher education budgets, and unemploy­ment among college and secondary school graduates would be reduced. Since both general and specific human capital contribute to economic growth, a balance has to be struck between size of general education and vocational education. Further, vocational education need not necessarily be purely vocational and technical. It should also include, like in Japan and Korea, general skills and attributes that are useful across a wide variety of occupations. This is particularly important in the rapidly changing economic systems.


Education has a tremendous impact on individuals and on society, so much so that entire industries have been built on the development and execution of meaningful education in this country and many others. Most people agree that education is a positive thing. The legal requirement of basic education in all developed nations supports this fact. However, the role that education plays in society and in individual lives is sometimes debated. There are those who think that people should primarily be educated to perform a skilled job, otherwise known as vocational education. Others feel that the whole mind should be expanded using a broad body of general knowledge. This is considered general education (academic education). Each of these educational ideals have their own advantages and disadvantages, as well as influences on society. Considered carefully, these ideals can create the foundation of an educational experience that enables a student to reach his or her highest potential in the workplace and in life. The academic courses are concerned with developing students’ knowledge, while vocational courses are concerned with developing students’ abilities to perform particular tasks. The structure of the academic strand was determined primarily by sets of examinations. In the vocational strand, there was (as one might expect) much less emphasis on examinations, but the structure was still very much built round the delivery of different types of courses.


Critical thinking and analysis are the most valuable parts of general education. When joined with humanities and the arts, the student acquires a broad base of knowledge that can be drawn from for making important decisions throughout their lifetime. The result of general education is the student who can see fallacies of argument, has the ability to look beyond the rhetoric of a well-written speech, and can identify trends that are potentially harmful. The more broadly people are able to think; the more likely they are to reach their full potential and contribute their talents to society. That should be the motivation and goal of any educational program.  The arts, literature, and history represent not only who we are, but who we have been and who we are becoming. A culture that limits itself to the business of the here and now often forgets the greatness of what it was and tends to repeat past mistakes. General education is more complete but can be out of reach to many people. It takes significantly longer and is more expensive than vocational education. A student who concentrates on general education classes at the undergraduate level and professional training at the Master’s and PhD level commits themselves to years more study, tuition, and part-time or non-employment.


Vocational education is as old as humanity itself. Any time young people are handed down essential skills for accomplishing important tasks, vocational education is occurring. From hunting and gathering to engine repair, and from grinding wheat to nuclear medicine, vocational training is, and has always been, the backbone of culture. We all must know a skill to survive. Currently, vocational education accomplishes several goals within a relatively short period of time. It readies people to become productive taxpaying citizens that will strengthen the community and tax base. This can be done in 2-4 years, depending on the degree, and involves less of a financial commitment than a general education degree. People who finish their degree can immediately enter the job market and, with periodic continuing educational courses in their field, can stay on the cutting edge of technology and trends. This is an important aspect of vocational education when technology changes quickly and affects almost every aspect of life and career. Personal and cultural competitiveness often relies on the ability to understand and integrate technology in work and life. However, there are drawbacks to vocational education. It does little to educate people in analytical or critical thinking, nor does it instruct students in humanities or arts.  Another often overlooked consideration in vocational education is the need of government, especially democratic republics, to draw legislators, leaders, and judicial officials straight from the general population. If the majority of people have only a vocational education, then that society might have a difficult time finding qualified people to govern and legislate.


Education provides the basic knowledge, skills and attitudes to make adult and youth people literate. Education programs also prepare adults and youth for meaningful and satisfying roles as working and contributing members of society.

Academic education prepares:

1. To read, write and compute.

2. To pass the competitive exam.

3. To acquire critical thinking and analysis.

4. To provide social education.

Vocational education prepares:

1. For employment with job skills training.

2. To increase productivity.

3. To acquire survival skills.


Pros and Cons of Vocational Education and Training:

Weighing the pros and cons of vocational education and training may help determine if this type of training program is right for a particular situation. For people who want to acquire training and get a job as soon as possible, a vocational training and education program may be just right. Vocational education and training institutions are typically cheaper to attend than a traditional colleges or universities. There are, however, some negative aspects to acquiring this type of training, such as the stigma of attending these schools, non-transferrable credits, and limitation of career or job opportunities. Before making a decision, there are many things to consider, such as tuition costs, transfer of credits, time of completion, and future employment options. Some of the positive aspects of vocational education and training are the lower cost of courses offered and the shorter period of time needed to complete the required courses and graduate. The cost of a traditional college education may be out of reach for some people, so vocational school may be the only affordable option for acquiring some kind of occupational training, finding a job and making a living. Vocational courses require much less time to complete than a three to four year degree. Some can be completed in a few months, and graduates can start looking for a paying job relatively quickly. Vocational training also allows a more flexible schedule for those students needing to take classes while working or raising a family. One of the negative aspects of vocational training and education is it that it may limit future employment and career opportunities. If your future career plans include moving into higher-ranking positions or even into management, the training received at a vocational school may not provide much help. Vocational training and education also limit the wages and types of companies for which one may work. Those wanting to remain in a particular area of work and who have no desire to move into higher paying managerial or executive positions will benefit from this type of training and education. There is sometimes a stigma attached to vocational training and education. This may be a negative aspect of this type of training for some people, while others do not seem to be bothered by it. While more expensive and requiring more time to complete, a college degree is considered by some to be better than any sort of training or education received at a vocational school. One final negative aspect is that some vocational training and education credits may only transfer to another vocational or training school and may not transfer to a traditional college or university.


Criticism of vocational education:

1. Vocational subjects are desirable on general education grounds, as part of a wellrounded education intended for everyone but they should not detract from efforts to improve the quality of core subjects. No study has shown that vocational courses offered as a minor part of a student’s total curriculum give an advantage in finding work (let alone self-employment) within the first few years after leaving school. This is particularly so when the labor market conditions for youth are severely depressed. Vocational subjects may foster an interest in the types of work for which the subjects are broadly intended and the skills learned may have private uses but tracer studies have found no positive impact on access to work after students leave school and no strong effect on access to relevant further technical training.

2. Vocationalization is costly. Most variants are more costly per student class period than general education subjects, primarily because of smaller classes and the greater cost of facilities, equipment, and consumables. Unless a course can be taught to a full class of students (few can), operating costs will be more than twice that of non-laboratory academic subjects.

3. Enrollment in some types of vocational courses is often strongly gender biased. Many skills taught are culturally identified with one gender only; for example, domestic science and secretarial skills with girls, industrial arts skills with boys.

4. Vocationalization is hard to implement well. It requires specially trained instructors, preferably with work experience in the types of skills being taught. Teachers with these qualifications are hard to recruit and retain. Time spent on vocational skills training can detract from the teaching of basic academic skills, which are badly in need of improvement and also essential for labor market purposes.


One can treat the spectrum of theory and practice as a dimension in a space of possible course aims, where the two endpoints of the dimension correspond to boundaries of this space that are structured in terms of the models of knowledge and of skills. This space of knowledge and skills is illustrated in the figure below and provide the principal ways in which knowledge underpins the skills where it is applied.

The traditional view of the distinction between academic and vocational courses is simply not adequate to describe the actual relationships that exist between them, particularly in the context of informatics courses in higher education. We must move on from the “tired and outdated” academic versus vocational debate and focus on creating a new pedagogy.


Integration of vocational and academic curricula:

The idea of combining vocational and academic coursework is also central to ‘High Schools That Work’, a network of more of more than 800 schools engaged in raising academic curriculum with modern vocational studies. It is also a key component of the New American High Schools identified by the U.S. Department of Education. Research has shown that schools bring academic and vocational education together in a number of different ways, which comprise eight different models of integration at the secondary level. These models are summarized as follows:

1. More academic content is incorporated in vocational courses.

2. Academic courses are made more vocationally relevant.

3. Academic and vocational teachers cooperate to incorporate academic content into vocational programs.

4. Curricular alignment is accomplished by modifying or coordinating both academic and vocational curricula across courses.

5. Seminar projects are done in lieu of elective courses and require students to complete a project that integrates knowledge and skills learned in both academic and vocational courses.

6. The academy model is a school-within-a-school that aligns courses with each other and to an occupational focus.

7. Vocational high schools and magnet schools align courses with each other and to an occupational focus for all students.

8. Occupational clusters, career paths, and occupational majors feature a coherent sequence of courses and alignment among courses within clusters.


The benefits of completing vocational and technical education programs are excellent for those who want to seek continuing education and increase their job skills. With the ever changing job market and the need for additional education, vocational and technical education provides opportunities for those who do want to attend academic college for a bachelor’s degree. So vocational education can be acquired by students of academic education as an additional education.


Vocational assessment:

One of the more important challenges facing educational and vocational institutions is be the attainment of a more open, flexible and effective system to recognize skills and competence, able to recognize the real skills of individuals whatever acquired.  There is therefore the need to make clear and understandable the individuals abilities to help them in improving their employment situation or to give them access to higher education or training recognizing their credits. The need to recognize and evaluate non formal and informal learning is part of the broader approach to lifelong learning. In Europe there are various systems and methodologies for the recognition and evaluation of non formal and informal learning. The process to evaluate skills includes three stages: introduction and guidance, evaluation and recognition.


What is school to work transition and why focus on it?

School-to-work transition generally refers to the critical socio-economic life changing period between approximately 15 to 24 years of age – a period when young individuals develop and build skills, based on their initial education and training that helps them become productive members of the society. Some of the most immediate economic considerations of this period in a young person’s life include issues related to education and skills development, unemployment and inactivity, job search, labor market entry and segmentation, occupational matches, stable employment and adequate income. Analyzing the transition from school to work is quite intricate because many young people begin employment while in school, migrate out of their communities, perform casual or unpaid work, or are easily discouraged from job searching. In addition there are multiple pathways for acquiring skills and furthering education including different institutional set ups, such as age of compulsory education, tracking into general and technical streams and formal and informal mechanisms of skills development.


The statistics below shows school dropout rate in India.


Why do students dropout?

Examining the reasons why students drop out, Willis (1986) discusses the following correlates of educational risk: family structure and poverty, race and ethnicity, language, residence, economic displacement, and gender. Indicators of educational risk, according to Willis, are student attendance, school continuation rates, academic performance, involvement in school activities, student behavior, attitudes toward school, need for employment, nature of family support, involvement in out-of-school activities, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. This does not mean, however, that dropping out is just a minority or urban problem. Noting that since 1970 the dropout rate for blacks has decreased nationally, whereas that for whites has edged up steadily in the U.S., Brown (1985) prefers to categorize high risk youth as either alienated (“uninterested in or dissatisfied with the values represented by school and work” and lacking in “motivation to succeed in expected ways”), disadvantaged and alienated, or simply disadvantaged.


Costs of student dropout:

The social, economic, and political costs of the dropout problem have been well documented. According to Brown (1985), the loss to national exchequer in lost tax revenues and payments to welfare recipients incurred as a result of the dropout problem amount to $20 billion annually. Willis (1986) cites figures stating that, based on estimates that the lifetime earnings loss of a single male dropout is $187,000 and that of a single female dropout are $122,000, the lost lifetime earnings from a high school with a 40 percent dropout rate amounts to $3.2 billion. These are American statistics and you can extrapolate costs of dropout in other developing nations form these figures.


VET in dropout prevention:

Historically, vocational education has been expected to serve the needs of students who do not expect to go to college, as well as those with low academic achievement—subgroups that are at risk of dropping out. It has been argued that vocational education may reduce dropping out among these students because they may find it more engaging or relevant than academic subjects. Typically, most of the courses students take until they reach high school are in academic subjects. This could be frustrating for students who do not perform well in academic courses, or for students who do not see the relevance of these courses for the activities they want to pursue after leaving high school. This frustration could cause these students to become disengaged from, which, as previous research suggests, could result in their dropping out (Finn 1989; Alexander et al. 2000). Vocational education may reengage these students because occupational courses are often fundamentally different from academic ones. Many academic courses focus on providing students with the skills needed to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. In contrast, many occupational courses focus on preparing students to succeed in the labor market. Students who are frustrated by academic courses may find occupational courses more interesting. Because of this interest, vocational education could, in fact, reduce dropping out. Vocational education may be particularly effective in reducing dropping out among students who plan to work immediately after high school.


The key to reducing the dropout rate is helping youth to overcome their sense of disconnection. Miller and Imel (1987) attest that students with low motivation to attend school have shown improvement in school attendance and retention after participating in career education and those vocational students who have participated in career education are more likely to complete the vocational program they have selected. An analysis performed by Mertens, Seitz, and Cox (1982) on data obtained in 1979 and 1980 interviews with the New Youth Cohort of the National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Force Behavior, confirmed that, all else being equal, the more vocational classes students took, the less likely they were to drop out of school. Two frequently cited studies that examined the relationship between vocational education and dropping out have concluded that vocational education reduces dropping out. The first study was conducted by Rasinski and Pedlow (1994) and found that vocational education indirectly reduces dropping out—that is, vocational education increases a student’s class rank, which, in turn, reduces dropping out. The second study was conducted by Plank (2001) and found that vocational education directly reduces dropping out, and that its effect is greatest when a student earns three vocational credits for every four academic credits.


However other studies found that, the average high school student’s chance of dropping out is the same when following the vocational concentrator or the basic academic program but for students who want to pursue vocational education, dropping out is less likely when they concentrate in vocational education than when they explore. It is also possible that vocational education does not affect dropping out, or that it even increases dropping out. Vocational education may have no effect on dropping out because the lateness of vocational education in a student’s educational career may make it difficult for vocational education alone to reengage students. Vocational education may even increase dropping out, because students who take occupational courses early in high school may develop skills that are valued in the labor market before they are scheduled to graduate, which may encourage some students to drop out because they want to work (Agodini and Dynarski 1998). This may be especially true of students who do not plan to seek postsecondary education.


VET costs and benefits:

The question ‘Is it worthwhile to invest in VET as VET is costly compared to general education. It is difficult to carry out an aggregate cost-benefit assessment or to come up with general conclusions. VET systems are embedded in national economic structures which add to their heterogeneity. Flexibility or rigidity of the labor market has an impact on employee turnover and on employers’ capacity to protect themselves against free-riding and poaching. Regulations such as minimum wages as well as the impact of unions and involvement of employers are crucial in shaping the wage structure and hence training costs and benefits. In the standard theoretical model of human capital with perfect labor markets, workers capture all the returns to their general human capital and employers have no incentive to pay for general training. However, when labor market frictions compress wages (increasing the wages of less skilled workers), firms may invest in the general skills of their employees. The reason according to Acemoglu and Pischke (1998) is that labor market imperfections restrict mobility of workers. This implies that trained workers do not get paid their full marginal product when they change jobs and general skills are turned into de facto specific skills. Other factors adding to the complexity of cost-benefit analysis include the nature of vocational education and training (in vocational schools or work-based) and the specific occupation or industry. Characteristics of the students, their age and level of prior schooling, the time it takes them to complete a VET program and to find an apprenticeship place are also relevant. Various direct and indirect costs to different stakeholders have to be taken into account as depicted in the table below.


Benefits may be difficult to quantify and hard to disentangle from other variables affecting performance and productivity.


The European research review of the benefits of vocational education and training (VET) presents the results of research carried out from 2005 to 2009 in 21 European countries. It relies on contributions from members of the ReferNet, who were asked to provide research-based information on the theme. Countries in this study include the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Lithuania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and the UK, plus Norway and Iceland. VET benefits can be grouped using a classical typology based on the nature of results. Two main categories can be identified: economic benefits and social benefits. Both can be analyzed on three different levels: the micro level (the benefits for individuals); the meso level (benefits for enterprises/groups); and the macro level (benefits for society as a whole). Figure below gives examples of VET benefits according to the dimension (economic and social) and the level of analysis (micro, meso and macro).


Vocational and Technical School Benefits:

Typically vocational and technical schools are designed for those who need or like to work with their hands or prefer work skills that require active engagement. These same people do not like to sit behind a desk and enjoy jobs which have changing experiences. The following are examples of other benefits of Vocational Education which include:

1. Higher hourly wages compared with those who have only a high school degree

2. Actively engaged in problem solving in the working environment

3. Hands-on work activities that allow application of knowledge

4. Employment opportunities which involve the outdoors

5. Leading to employment opportunities which offer greater responsibilities

6. Learning new work skills to meet requirements in an ever changing work place

7. Learning new skills for changing careers

8. Typical 97% employment rate after graduation, with over 80% in the field of their certificate (U.S. Department of Education, 2006)

9. Increased job skill transfer ability

10. Increased job stability

11. The ability to transfer to a four year college for a Bachelors Degree, if desired

12. The ability to earn a two year Associates Degree, if desired


VET survey:

A survey found that:

1)76 percent said that all students would benefit from vocational education.

2)90 percent agreed or strongly agreed that vocational education prepared students for good-paying jobs.

3)92 percent agreed or strongly agreed that vocational education can lead students to go to college.

4) Only 4 percent agreed that vocational education led to low-skill jobs.

5)98 percent said that internships or apprenticeships in different career fields were appropriate for high school juniors and seniors.

6)90 percent said that real work-based problems or career-related projects were a good way to teach subjects like math and English.


These survey results present a curious contradiction. On one hand, there is a raft of common misconceptions about vocational education, the labor market; in particular the name “vocational education” often invokes an automatic negative response. On the other hand, however, people often reveal very favorable attitudes toward many of the elements that are a traditional part of vocational education. The great majority of people have a very positive reaction to the elements that are the very foundation of vocational education: a focus on career preparation; knowledge and skills that are relevant for the job market; the possibility of challenging careers, good-paying jobs, and college. Such favorable attitudes toward the foundation elements of vocational education may represent a new trend for the new millennium.


VET and economic growth:

VET is important for economic growth. Growth of economy depends on availability of skilled workers and VTE helps development of skilled labor force and thereby strengthens economy. But the relationship is not linear.  So each country has to decide the extent of VET that has to be developed, depending upon the level of development and demand for skills.  As Foster (1965) observed, “in the initial stages, technical and vocational instruction is the cart rather than the horse in economic growth, and its development depends upon real and perceived opportunities in the economy”.  The provision of vocational education must be directly related to those points at which some development is already apparent and where demand for skills is beginning to be manifested.


VET and Development:

The industrialized world invests more in vocational schooling than the developing world. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) finds a simple correlation between the two, as ‘the greater a country’s Gross Domestic Product per capita, the greater its secondary Percentage of Technical/Vocational Enrollment’ (UIS, 2006). However, surprisingly, there is little in the relevant literature to support the link between VET and development. With a few exceptions, the standard conclusion is that it is wiser for governments to invest in general education than in VET. This line of reasoning has been set on the pretext of ‘the vocational school fallacy’ – a term coined by Foster when researching the externalities of Western education reform in Ghana in 1965.


The Vocational School ‘Fallacy’:

Vocational and technical education is not necessarily favored by all. There are strong opponents as well. In a seminal often quoted work, Philip Foster (1965) exploded the vocational school myth and called it “vocational school fallacy.”  Foster and later Mark Blaug (1973) clearly argued that vocationalisation cannot be a remedy for educated unemploy­ment: it cannot prepare students for specific occupations and reduce mismatches between education and the labor market; academic streams promise higher wages than vocational streams; accordingly demand for vocational education might not ex­ist, and Say’s law that supply creates its own demand might not work. Furthermore, vocational schooling may create “a sense of second class citizenship among both teachers and taught which militates against effective learning” (Blaug, 1973). King and Martin (2002) explain the VET ‘fallacy’ as a challenge between planning and reality. Foster’s main message was that youth in Africa had already quite rationally decided in the sixties – despite all types of attempts to change their attitude – that an academic education would be better for achieving their goals and improving their position than vocational schooling. Thus while policy could have had many noble goals in trying to improve the situation of socially and economically disadvantaged people, the actual attitudes and behavior of young people may not match these goals, as was the case in Africa, according to Foster. Foster’s conclusions were based on a study of perceptions of young Ghanaian males on their future prospects and education opportunities. Although several methodological points are made and the mitigating effects of schools on society are recognized, King and Martin’s (2002) survey still concludes that ‘Foster’s message today as in 1963 remains relevant for any attempts to use schools to deliver massive changes in attitude and aspiration in the absence of any parallel initiatives in the larger economic environment’ (King and Martin, 2002). Oketch (2007) is more critical of the fallacy, claiming that it does not have to apply today, as vocational education is seen as training which forms the basis for future training, not as a way to facilitate job entry, but as a way to facilitate vocational-specific skill over a lifetime. He argues that VET in Africa needs to be reformed to train for what he calls ‘higher skills’ linking better with the informal sector (Oketch, 2007). It is however clear that the ‘fallacy’ continues to influence policymakers today, making them skeptical about the need for VET.


Rejuvenation of VET from being labeled fallacious:

With the succinct, clear and powerful arguments of Foster, Blaug and others, it was hoped that the issue was buried. But it refuses to stay buried. Few countries have given up their efforts in developing elaborate systems of VET. After all, it has inherently a powerful appeal. Many countries have set ambitious targets as well. For example, China had a goal of expanding vocational education so that at least fifty per cent of the enrolments in secondary education would be in vocational education in near future; India has a similar target of reaching 25 per cent; and Bangladesh twenty per cent.  As Psacharopoulos (1987) aptly stated, “because of the inherently logical and simplistic appeal, vocationalism will be with us for years to come, and more countries will attempt to tune their formal educational systems to the world of work.” Organizations such as UNESCO and the World Bank have played a leading role in reviving and furthering the cause of vocational or diversified secondary educa­tion. UNESCO adopted in 1974 an important detailed recommendation concerning technical and vocational education, and argued for provision of technical and vocational educa­tion as “an integral part of general education,” as “a means of preparing for an oc­cupational field,” and as an instrument to reduce the mismatches between education & employment, and between school & society at large. The World Bank’s sector policy paper on education (World Bank, 1974) attacked school curricula as excessively theoretical and abstract, insufficiently oriented to local conditions, and insufficiently concerned with attitudes and with manual, social & leadership skills; and accordingly the Bank also suggested increasing vocationalisation of the curricula of academic schools.


Wolf report regarding vocational education in UK:

Professor Wolf is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London, and specializes in the relationship between education and the labor market. She has a particular interest in training and skills policy, universities, and the medical workforce. Vocational education not good enough, says Wolf report. Hundreds of thousands of young people are doing vocational courses which do not lead to university or a job, a report says. Many 14 to 16 year olds are on courses which the league table systems encourage but which lead children into dead-ends. Many young people have not been told the truth about the consequences of their choice of qualification. A quarter to a third (300,000 – 400,000) of 16 to 19 year olds are on courses which do not lead to higher education or good jobs. High-quality apprenticeships are too rare and an increasing proportion is being offered to older people not teenagers. It says all pupils should study a core of academic subjects until they are 16. Professor Wolf recommends a radical change of direction.


Key disadvantage of VET:

Virtually all discussion of vocational education emphasizes its potential advantages in easing entry into the labor market by youth. But there is the other end of the market. If people receive skills that are finely tuned to employment opportunities, they might not be particularly prepared to adjust to new technologies. Thus, with higher growth rates and faster technological and structural change, people with vocational training may be more likely to be out of the labor market later in the life cycle. So Vocational education facilitates entry into the labor market but hurts employment at older ages. The skills students learn from a vocational education may ease their transition into the labor market, according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research. However, those initial labor-market advantages fade as workers age. The study found that individuals with a general education are more likely to be employed at age 50 than are those with a vocational education. A general education was particularly helpful in countries that experienced faster economic growth and larger technological change.

Employment rates are higher for youth with vocational education, but this turns around by the age of 50. The employment patterns are most pronounced in the “apprenticeship countries” with combined school and work-based education programs (Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland) and least noticeable in the countries with no formal system of vocational education such as the United States. The figure above displays the employment patterns for these three “apprenticeship countries,” and the lower employment at older ages is very apparent.


Key reforms that must be undertaken in different areas to make the vocational education and vocational training systems more responsive to the needs of the labor market – and these have been summarized below. The first phase focuses on reforms aimed at improving the quality and labor market relevance of the existing system, while the medium-term agenda also includes moving forward on mobilizing additional resources for the system, especially once the quality has improved. The table below highlights the key reforms that need to be undertaken in the 1st phase and over the medium term, the advantages of undertaking these reforms and the potential challenges that need to be addressed to ensure successful implementation of reforms.



Poor progress of VET in Asian countries vis-à-vis Europe:

Why several countries have made remarkable progress in vocational education (European) and many others could not (Asian)?  This depends upon social, economic and political factors, which also mutually interact with each other. First, the social factors.  Social attitudes to vocational education are not encouraging in many Asian countries.  Negative attitudes to manual work severely dampen the demand for vocational education. Further, VET is conceived as a system of education for the poor, and for the educationally backward sections that are not eligible for admission into higher education. This is viewed as one that perpetuates inequalities in the system. For example, the experiment of providing a rural curriculum in Tamil Nadu in India, familiarly known as the Rajaji experiment, and the Handessa Rural Education Scheme in the 1930s in Sri Lanka, were abandoned not only because there was no demand for such education, but also because they came to be viewed as a Brahmincal conspiracy and as “a ruse designed to keep the under-privileged away from the prestigious academic cur­riculum” (Wijemanne, 1978). In rural areas it is mostly considered as the second-class education against the expectations of pupils and parents. Low prestige attached to vocational education and its inherent inequities are somewhat a common phenomenon in many countries including India, Indonesia, Philippines and Sri Lanka and to some extent in Korea and Taiwan. This suspicion that vocational curricula provide a second-class education to individuals belonging to lower class or lower caste, racial minorities and women; away from academic education and access to jobs of the highest pay and status; became quite strong over the years and some public polices of ill-treatment of vocational education in educational planning and resource allocation contributed to strengthening this belief.  As a result, vocational education in countries like India did not take off on a sound footing. Secondly, enrolments in vocational education and level of economic development are related.  Demand for vocational education seemed to exist in industrially developing societies, with growth and diversification of industrial structure.  The lower the overall level of a country’s development, the weaker is the case for introducing vocational curriculum and diversifies it. But it is in these countries the need for vocational education is felt. Emphasis on diversified industrial production emphasizes the need for labor force with vocational skills.  Much growth in vocational education took place in countries like Korea during early industrialization processes, when employment opportunities could increase. So vocational education becomes more popular in regions where jobs can be guaranteed. The other way can also be augured: unemployment rates may diminish, if people have vocational skills. For instance, Haq and Haq (1998) observed, unemployment rates in the East Asian economies remained low essentially because the population possessed employable vocational and technical skills.  However, the relationship between demand for vocational education and economic development may not be linear. When the economies move away from reliance on its agricultural and manufacturing sectors and in favor of service sector, the demand for VET may indeed decline.


How to improve VET in developing nations akin to developed nations:

The training courses lack focus on the changing job market in developing nations. As a result it was seen from various reports that the number of students is declining for long term vocational courses. The training policy should be focused on the changing job market in order to attract young people. Funding for the public VET institutes is very low in developing countries as compared to developed countries which have restructuring-funds, whose share goes for improvement of vocational training systems in order to achieve international quality. In developing nations, vocational institutes must focus on low-literate youth and provide new vocational qualifications/training programs and also on unorganized sector, otherwise it will cause long term losses. Lack of accountability and training/supply management are also major problems for ITI institutes. A central vocational training standardization system, accredited nationally and globally, for maintaining the quality of the vocational education can enhance credibility of vocationally trained persons in the industry. To attract more students from school level, reorientation of vocational courses is needed. There should be a bridge organization to relate R&D institutes and vocational education system. It would help the vocationally trained person to get the benefits of R&D.


Table 4

Social Rates of Return to Vocational versus General Secondary Education

















South Korea






































Source: Psacharopoulos (1994); Tilak (1994, 2001); Bennell (1995, 1998)


The table above presents estimates of social rates of return to VET versus general education in seven Asian countries. Though they are somewhat out-of-date, it can be noted that except in Taiwan where the difference is small, in general, vocational education does not pay as much as general secondary education.  After all, costs of vocational education are extremely high, but the labor market benefits are not so high as to compensate for the huge costs. However, if productivity is measured not in earnings, but in physical terms, and not in relation to costs, sometimes it is found that workers with VET may be more productive than those with general academic education (e.g., Min and Tsang, 1990).


Appropriate role of the Public Sector in vocational training:

There has always been an extensive debate regarding the appropriate role of government in the provision and financing of training. While the debate is by no means resolved, international experience points towards some guiding principles in this regard. No government today can afford to provide and finance all the skills needed by a modern economy. Finding the appropriate balance in government and non-government provision and financing of skills is essential. The highest priority for government is in getting the policies right to facilitate skills development that encourages each of the partners to pursue its comparative advantage in a market context. The balance in the partnership may vary from country to country given the economic context and will need to be informed by analysis of this context. Some rather clear roles for government emerge where ensuring equity of access to training is concerned and where markets fail to provide the right signals to guide training decisions. Encouraging cost recovery for training can improve the efficiency with which training resources are used but reduce access to training for those without a capacity to pay. The state has a clear role to promote equity in access and can use its financing in a targeted fashion to achieve this goal in state-sponsored and nongovernment sources of skills training. Where markets fail to send the right signals to guide training decisions, governments can also justify financing interventions. The presence of social benefits to training that are not captured in increased earnings for the trainee or higher profits for the enterprise will lead to lower levels of private investment in skills development than needed from a social perspective. Targeting public financing to those who would invest in these skills can improve the performance of the market. State-sponsored provision of training can also be used to address equity and market failures, but it is not a necessary condition in an environment where non-government capacity for skills development exists. Determining the role for the public sector in the provision of training therefore requires carefully assessing what the non-government sector is willing to do and whether, with appropriate incentives, it can be encouraged to fill training gaps. There are many things the non-government sector does not or cannot do. These include overall policy development and guidance, standard setting, the provision of information about the benefits and location of training, preparing teaching materials, training instructors, and running standardized examinations of graduates. Here, the state’s role is clear and positive.



Apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill. Apprentices build their careers from apprenticeships. Most of their training is done while working for an employer who helps the apprentices learn their trade, in exchange for their continuing labor for an agreed period after they become skilled. Theoretical education may also be involved, informally via the workplace and/or by attending vocational schools while still being paid by the employer. The system of apprenticeship first developed in the later middle Ages and came to be supervised by craft guilds and town governments.


‘Apprenticeship’ can mean very different things. For the World Bank for example, the ‘traditional’ apprenticeship is offered by a small business owner, which is willing, for a fee, to teach a skill or trade that is in demand. The training period varies in length, depending upon the technical difficulty of the trade and how quickly apprentices master the body of skills. Such apprenticeships are still found in North and West Africa and to a lesser extent in Latin America (Middleton et al, 1993). Such an apprenticeship is quite the opposite of more regulated ‘transitions’. In the latter situation, it is in the interest of the company to provide the apprenticeship when it employing and giving a (modest) salary to the apprentice. The word ‘apprenticeship’ is therefore quite ambiguous. Ryan (1998), in an attempt to calculate the economic merits of apprenticeship, explains that the category ranges from the informal purely work-based learning-by-doing – which still predominates in developing countries – to formal structured programs of general education and vocational preparation sponsored by large industrial firms in some advanced economies. Completing an apprenticeship is an alternative to traditional vocational training. Apprenticeships are most common for highly skilled manufacturing or construction jobs, but are available for more than 850 occupations in many industries. Common programs train people to be boilermakers, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, firefighters, machinists, millwrights, plumbers, roofers, telecommunications technicians, and tool and die makers. Less common programs train people to be stage technicians and actors, cooks, designers, paralegals, environmental technicians, computer programmers, and landscapers. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction. Apprenticeships typically take four to six years to complete, although some can be completed in as little as one year. Because apprenticeships are paid programs, competition for available slots is often fierce. About twenty-nine thousand apprenticeship programs exist nationwide.


The modern concept of an internship is similar to an apprenticeship. Internship is a system of on-the-job training for white-collar jobs, similar to an apprenticeship. Interns are usually college or university students, but they can also be high school students or post graduate adults seeking skills for a new career. They may also be as young as middle school or in some cases elementary students. Student internships provide opportunities for students to gain experience in their field, determine if they have an interest in a particular career, create a network of contacts, or gain school credit. Internships provide employers with cheap or free labor for (typically) low-level tasks. Some interns find permanent, paid employment with the companies in which they interned. Their value to the company may be increased by the fact that they need little to no training. An internship may be paid, unpaid or partially paid (in the form of a stipend). Paid internships are most common in the medical, architecture, science, engineering, law, business (especially accounting and finance), technology and advertising fields. Internships in non-profit organizations such as charities and think tanks are often unpaid, volunteer positions. Internships may be part-time or full-time – typically they are part-time during the university year and full-time in the summer. They usually last 6–12 weeks, but can be shorter or longer, depending on the company involved. The act of job shadowing may also constitute interning. Internship positions are available from businesses, government departments, non-profit groups and organizations.


World Bank and VET:

The position of the World Bank is interesting, as it has funded many VET projects in the past. From 1963 to 1976, more than half of World Bank-assisted investments in the educational systems of developing countries supported vocational education or training. Two-thirds of this investment was made in middle income countries. Similar patterns persisted well into the 1980s, not only for the World Bank, but also for the investment programs of the Asian, African, and Inter-American Development Banks. The dilemma mentioned in the World Bank study is that developing nations are faced with a dual problem while developing strategies for increasing the access to ‘middle-level skills’. This dual problem is to improve productivity under severe resource constraints and respond to high demands of public education and training resources, including improving access to, and quality of, basic education. Therefore, the results of VET should be seen in the context of other investments as well. The authors take note of the above-mentioned problems of definition, combined with a lack of data, concluded that due to such problems ‘it is not surprising that the attempts to examine VET’s contribution to economic growth have been unsuccessful’. However this does not stop them from drawing far-reaching conclusions.


The World Development Report (WDR) 2007:

Development and the Next Generation (WDR 2007) presents a comprehensive approach of life transitions into the challenges of adulthood, it focuses on the five major transition faced by youth including, learning for life, transitioning to work, healthy adolescence, forming families, and exercising citizenship.  Of the five transitions outlined in the WDR, the education sector mainly focuses on the first two – learning for life and the school-to-work transition. These two issues are intricately intertwined with the other issues of healthy adolescence, family life and the avoidance of risk-taking behaviors. Developing countries which invest in better education, healthcare, and job training for their record numbers of young people between the ages of 12 and 24 years of age, could produce surging economic growth and sharply reduced poverty. With 1.3 billion young people now living in the developing world-the largest-ever youth group in history-the report says there has never been a better time to invest in youth because they are healthier and better educated than previous generations, and they will join the workforce with fewer dependents because of changing demographics. The report says that young people make up nearly half of the ranks of the world’s unemployed, and, for example, that the Middle East and North Africa region alone must create 100 million jobs by 2020 in order to stabilize its employment situation. Moreover, surveys of young people in East Asia and Eastern Europe and Central Asia-carried out as research for the report-indicate that access to jobs, along with physical security, is their biggest concern. Far too many young people–some 130 million 15-24 year olds–cannot read or write. Secondary education and skill acquisition make sense only if primary schooling has been successful. This is still far from being the case and efforts have to be reinforced in this area. In addition, more than 20 percent of firms in countries such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Estonia, and Zambia, rate poor education & work skills among their workforce as ‘a major or severe obstacle to their operations.’ Overcoming this handicap starts with more and better investments in youth. Most developing countries have a short window of opportunity to get this right before their record numbers of youth become middle-aged, and they lose their demographic dividend. This isn’t just enlightened social policy. This may be one of the profound decisions a developing country will ever make to banish poverty and galvanize its economy. One study attributes more than 40 percent of the higher growth in East Asia over Latin America in 1965-1990 to progressive policies on macro-economics, trade, education, healthcare, and vocational training, and the faster growth of its working-age population. Countries that miss this demographic window will find themselves lagging increasingly further behind in the global economy. The report says that most policymakers know that their young people will greatly influence their national social and economic fortunes, but nonetheless face acute dilemmas in how to invest more effectively in their youth. The World Development Report identifies three strategic policies that may enhance investment in young people: (1) Expanding opportunities, (2) improving capabilities, and (3) offering second chances for young people who have fallen behind due to difficult circumstances or poor choices. These address five fundamental transitions facing young people and affecting their whole economic, social and family life, namely getting an education, finding work, staying healthy, forming families, and exercising citizenship.


Adult Education:

Adult education is a broad field where people whose major social roles are characteristic of adult status undertake systematic and sustained learning activities for the purposes of bringing about changes in knowledge, attitudes, values, or skills. Many adult educators are involved directly or indirectly in activities or programs that educate, train, or develop workers for present or future employment because they have expertise and/or experience in teaching adults. These activities or programs include basic adult education, continuing professional education, adult literacy training, Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) programs, and business and industry training.


Social exclusion and vocational guidance:

Learning in its widest, truest sense can raise self-confidence and provide an enjoyable, interesting experience and enhance life. The guidance process itself provides ‘learning experiences to enable clients to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies related to making personal, educational and career decisions’ (Clark, 1999). Furthermore, for those who do choose to return to learning, good quality guidance is extremely important in the negotiation of the maze of learning opportunities currently on offer and their costs. For people at risk of social exclusion such guidance may be indispensable. A range of factors contributes to social exclusion, and people of all ages may be excluded from participating in the normal social and economic life of the country in which they live. In a modern economy, the single greatest symptom of social exclusion is likely to be low income, arising from unemployment or precarious or low-paid employment. Poverty and social exclusion are not, however, synonyms. Other attributes of social exclusion include lack of access to employment, education and the kind of social life regarded as normal; lack of access to informal networks that provide information such as the availability of jobs or courses; lack of contact with officialdom apart from welfare and policing agencies; and vulnerability to crime either as victims or perpetrators.  Furthermore, ‘social exclusion’ means that processes are at work without the control of the individual. People rarely, if ever, ‘exclude themselves’; and the popular myth of the ‘socially excluded’ or the ‘underclass’ as young, male and feckless is far from the reality. In fact, the excluded are heterogeneous. For the majority of disadvantaged groups, however, the issue is not access to higher education but access to any form of lifelong learning. There are three kinds of barriers commonly referred to as institutional, situational and dispositional.


1. Institutional barriers:

For groups at risk of social exclusion, including older adults, less affluent and well-educated people, women with dependent children, ethnic minorities and rural populations, participation is low where: institutions do not provide appropriate courses; a middle-class, ethnocentric ethos is pervasive; timetabling and lack of child-care provision do not recognise the needs of women; courses are located far from home; fees are high; disabled access is poor (including access for the visually and hearing disabled); and there are few support structures, including the provision of information and advice (McGivney 1993; Park 1994). Thus the difficulty of access arising from institutional barriers on the part of learning providers is one reason for non-participation. The blame for some of these barriers, however, lies not with the providers themselves but with the rules under which they operate.


2. Situational barriers:

Those most in need of education and training to enhance their life-chances are the least likely to participate in it, and often because their situation prevents them from doing so. Examples of such situations are life in rural or other remote areas; disability; low-paid, low-skilled employment; lone parenthood; and homelessness.


3. Dispositional barriers:

For some education is felt to be ‘a waste of time’ or ‘not for the likes of me’, although job-related training, if offered, may be a more attractive, because more obviously relevant and useful proposition. It would be a mistake, however, to equate all non-participants with the socially excluded. Some people simply choose not to participate in courses, preferring to spend their free time in other ways, including informal or self-directed learning which is not recognised as such (Tough 1993); but the patterns that emerge on analysis of participants suggests that wider cultural, social and economic factors play an important part in influencing and constraining personal choice. Participation ‘is not merely a function of socio-demographic variables … Rather it has something more to do with perceptions of power and self-worth mediated through the instrumentality of these variables’ (McGivney 1993, citing Courtney). What appear to be dispositional barriers, then, may often be essentially institutional or situational, or a mixture of both which is hard to disentangle.


Social exclusion vis-à-vis education in India:

India is a unique country where large sections of Hindu lower caste people were socially excluded to acquire education for centuries and reservation policy in post-independent era is trying to bring back these socially backward people into the mainstream of education. However, the method they have adopted to give reservation in educational institutions purely on the basis of birth bypassing merit is counter-productive. What we need is affirmative action in which every socially backward child/youth is given a flat 10 % marks in addition to his/her marks obtained by merit to make a level playing field while competing with Hindu upper class students. You cannot allow a youth from socially backward caste with 40 % marks to become a doctor/engineer under pretext of stamping out social exclusion. Sadly, reservation policy in India has become party to vote-bank politics and it is unlikely for such a nation to excel in educational achievements.


Vocational guidance and lifelong learning:

In an ideal world, everyone who needed it would have free access to a vocational guidance and counselling service, which in turn would be at the centre of a network of agencies and organisations with the resources to offer lifelong learning to those who most need it but find it difficult to access. This would enable guidance services to move beyond working to remove dispositional barriers into collaboration to remove institutional barriers and ameliorate the effects of situational barriers.


Disabled people and VET:

Employment is a means through which one is able to use his/her potential to further develop his/her skills and interests, to feel part of a community, to contribute to society, and to have access to financial independence in the process. Indeed, employment is one of the pillars on which the whole concept of independent living stands. Whereas independent living can often be taken for granted by nondisabled people, disabled people due to barriers created by society, have to struggle to have access to what is ultimately their right, that is, to live their own life, deciding what they want to do and make it happen. Very often, disabled people find themselves in situations where other non-disabled people, explicitly or implicitly, make decisions on their behalf, perhaps out of overprotection and often out of sheer paternalism. This, of course, happens with respect to the choice of employment. Thus, the need for a study about career guidance for disabled people has long been felt. Such a study needs to contemplate that what this minority requires is support to be able to access a career. Career guidance needs to take into consideration personal circumstances, but which are truly congruent to the person’s interests and potential rather than leading them to a ‘career’ which ‘fits the mould’ of low expectations.


The evidence that disabled people experience severe economic deprivation and social disadvantage is overwhelming and no longer in dispute, whether it is from the Government’s own commissioned research, from research institutes, academics or disabled people themselves. For example, after over a century of state-provided education, disabled children and young people are still not entitled to the same kind of schooling as their able bodied peers and nor do they leave with equivalent qualifications. The majority of British schools, colleges and universities remain unprepared to accommodate disabled students within a mainstream setting. Thus, many young disabled people have little choice but to accept a particular form of segregated ‘special’ education which is both educationally and socially divisive.



The life of a student can be referred to as a lifelong journey. The Career Guidance teacher has a role to accompany any student, who for some reason or other encounters difficulties along this passage. A person with a disability, like any other student, requires a positive experience and needs to answer questions related to Who am I? and What can I become? However, in this experience called ‘life’, these individuals do not come across the normal pitfalls, but have a number of barriers they need to overcome to ensure that they will make it through. There are many elements which will affect the way students will prevail over these challenges, namely; their personality, their sense of pliability and the support imparted by society to overcome these barriers. Resilience is improved when community leaders, educators, therapists, parents, youth and community workers, mentors, priests, coaches, provide as many supports in the environment as can be garnered. More than 9 out of 10 secondary students with autism (92 percent) take at least one academic subject in a given semester as seen in figure below:


Distance Learning Vocational Programs:

Many programs offered by vocational and technical schools are offered through distance learning. This allows adult students to complete a program when it is more convenient for them due to the work schedule, life commitments, or distance to school. Examples of vocational and technical school programs offered through distance learning include:

1. Computers – computer technician, web designer, website developer, network administrator, information technology, and more.

2. Business – buying and selling, travel and tourism, library assistants, recreation careers, and more.

3. Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing – installers, repair mechanics, building inspectors, and more.

4. Nursing – medical assistants, dental assistants, pharmacy technicians, physical therapists, and more.

5. Culinary – chefs, line cooks, and food preparation workers.

6. Landscape Design – principals of design, irrigation systems, horticulture, and more.

7. Telecommunications – electronics repair, communication systems, power line technicians, and more.

These are samples of the vocational and technical education programs that are available through distance learning. These programs and more are also offered through traditional classroom settings for those who do not want to complete distance learning programs.


Future vocational guidance via mobile phones:

One of the ways to improve young people’s career guidance is through mobile phone applications. What I think we will see in schools and colleges in the future, is analyzed and organized data released by social enterprises in the format that young people can use and available on mobile phone as direct personal communication. By creating mobile phone apps that enable young people to check out organized material on line, it will provide career guidance to young people and at some point, they will be motivated to contact someone who has direct experience.


Brain Scans may help guide Career Choice:

General aptitude tests and specific mental ability tests are important tools for vocational guidance. Researchers are now asking whether performance on such tests is based on differences in brain structure, and if so, can brain scans be helpful in choosing a career? Using MRI, the researchers correlated gray matter with independent ability factors (general intelligence, speed of reasoning, numerical, spatial, memory) and with individual test scores from a battery of cognitive tests completed by 40 individuals seeking vocational guidance. They found that, in general, the grey matter correlates for the broad and narrow test types were different. Researchers concluded that a person’s pattern of cognitive strengths and weaknesses is related to their brain structure, so there is a possibility that brain scans could provide unique information that would be helpful for vocational choice. This result forms a basis to investigate this further.


Difference between America and Europe vis-à-vis VET:

By “middle class” I mean people who are neither at the top nor the bottom of their societies in terms of income. Aristotle was only the first of a long line of commentators to point out that stable democracies depend on the presence of a broad middle class. Without a broad middle class, countries from the beginning of time have descended into oligarchy, with a small elite getting all the goodies and lording it over the impoverished others, or been consumed by populist revolution. Democracy withers in such situations.


In 2006 report, Tough Choices or Tough Times, NCEE documented the decline of that middle class in the U.S. The triangle-shaped distribution of the American income up to about 20 years ago is now contrasted with the emerging hour-glass shape of today. The fat middle of that triangle was the middle-class. The thing that gives the new hour-glass shape of American income distribution its singular pattern is the rapid disappearance of the middle class. Increasingly, those who used to be in the middle are dividing their destinations; a few are rising into the realm of the upper classes and many more are descending into the lower class. Many global economic forces are at work contributing to inequality of incomes in the liberal democracies, but none is more important than differences in education levels within and among nations. Few Americans are aware of the extent to which their economy used to depend on the breadth and quality of the vocational education system. It was as if the United States felt that it had to choose between making improvements in students’ academic skills and maintaining a system to provide robust vocational skills. Americans chose the former, and, with the inauguration of career academies in their high schools, substituted programs intended to motivate students to stay in school for serious vocational educational programs. Americans solved the problem of the low prestige of vocational program by renaming it, calling it career and technical education instead.


Japan, Singapore, the Netherlands, Denmark and other leading industrial countries lived in the midst of the same global economic forces Americans did, but they did not do what Americans did in response. They doubled down to improve both their academic and their vocational programs. They built education systems designed to support the middle class as well as an elite. They built vocational education programs that require high academic skills. And they designed programs that could deliver those skills. They did not sever the connections between employers and their high schools; they strengthened them. They made sure their high school vocational students had first-rate instructors and equipment. Their reward is a work force that is balanced between managers and workers, scientists and technicians. No one tells an individual student what he or she will do with their life. But those students have a range of attractive choices. So death of vocational education in America resulted in demise of American middle class while strengthening vocational programs with academic skills by Europeans resulted in development of broad middle class. So too much academic education at the cost of vocational education result in creating either elite or poor class at the cost of middle class.


Myths about vocational education:

Myth 1: Vocational education is only seen as the acceptable route for those people who weren’t ‘academics’ and dropouts.

Fact: This is definitely a myth. The term ‘vocational’ actually means ‘work-related’. So if you are doing a vocational qualification it means you are learning skills that will help you to get, and do, a job. That’s it. Vocational education is not an ‘easier’ alternative to academic hard work, it is something that provides people with practical skills and the underpinning knowledge people need to understand how to use these skills. Some people are not aware that you can actually get vocational qualifications that will take you up to the same level as a degree, so the opportunities for continued personal development are still there, even if you don’t choose the conventional route. While it used to be very strongly believed that vocational education was really only suitable for those who weren’t rich or clever enough to go to college (and not just by students but parents, teachers and policymakers were often of the same opinion). There have been studies about this sort of thing you know (Kober and Rentner in 2000; Stone in 1993) and they found that 80% of all high school students take at least one vocational course, and one in eight students take more vocational courses than vocational students do. So, the college grads are actually taking more vocational courses than the dummies and dropouts. Vocational students in applied academic subjects like math are actually just as good at it as college students are.


Myth 2: Vocational education doesn’t pay.

Fact:  Studies have shown that vocational graduates are actually more likely to be employed than their non-vocational peers, and they earn more money, especially if they worked part time during high school. Generic technical and occupationally specific skills provided in vocational education can not only increase worker productivity, but also job access, job stability and skill transfer, so they find it easier to find training-related jobs. With a vocational qualification, you’re more likely to be able to start working sooner, giving you the experience you need to back up what you’re learning – and you get to earn money at the same time. And the money earning doesn’t stop there. For the last five years, City & Guilds has produced the Vocational Rich List – a barometer that charts the fames and fortunes of the UK’s self-made millionaires and entrepreneurs from a vocational background. Last year’s results revealed that the 25 wealthiest people across all industries had tripled their fortunes from £2.7bn to £9.3bn since 2003. And 68% of them are still in the same industry they took their qualification in, illustrating how the hands-on route can lead to a lifetime of success.


Myth 3: Without a college graduate degree, you have no future.

Fact: Take a look at these facts.  Out of all the college graduates who graduate with a three to four-year degree, around 66% will find a job in their related field of study. College students who graduate with a professional credential (accounting, engineering, teaching etc) only 50% will find a job in that field. There is no guarantee of a higher income if you have a college degree. A closer look at supply and demand in the labor market uncovers another reality to contradict the belief that a college degree is the ticket to success. That fact is that professional occupations make up only 20 percent of all jobs. Technical employment is the fastest-growing segment of the labor market. Most technical work will not require a college degree. Only 25 percent of all technical work requires a graduate degree. The fastest-growing piece of the high-skill, high-wage technical workplace is occupations that require an associate’s degree.


Myth 4: A popular misconception is that vocational and academic routes are binding – if you start in one or the other, you have to follow the same one for the length of your career.

Fact: Vocational education and conventional qualifications should be seen as complementary, not mutually exclusive. A top surgeon who goes on a course to get up to speed on the latest techniques is learning skills that they will use in their work. It’s no different to someone taking a vocational qualification.


Myth 5: Vocational education is still viewed by many to be a narrow route.

Fact: There are over 500 different qualifications – and they’re not all for plumbers, hairdressers and chefs. For example, we have teaching, healthcare, travel and tourism, journalism and even law qualifications. We know that despite what the media might like to say about young people, these are the same career areas they put at the top of their wish list.


Myth 6: Another common belief among parents is that every child has the aptitude and interests to succeed in an academic college degree program.

Fact: According to some estimates, only about 30 percent of high school graduates possess the aptitude and receive the academic preparation needed for success in college academic courses. In 1996 in the U.S., 27 percent of college freshmen dropped out-an all-time high. The best estimates are that about half of the students in college degree programs graduate within six years; the worst estimates, as low as 30 percent. Every parent believes that their child is bright enough to acquire a bachelor’s degree but the fact is quite contrary. Don’t push your child too much in academic career and spoil his/her life.


The moral of the story:

1. Parents must understand that all children do not have aptitude to obtain bachelor’s degree and a bachelor’s degree from an academic college is not a panacea for success in life.


2. If you are sure that you know all your abilities, then you are wrong, and only time will tell deficiency and variability in your abilities, but unfortunately it will be too late as you will be pursuing a wrong career by then. So obtain proper career guidance to determine your true aptitude.


3. Each person – regardless of gender, education, economic status, race, religion, age or occupational status – should have free and easy access to career guidance so that their individual capabilities and skills can be identified and developed to enable them to undertake adequate education, vocational training and employment, to adapt to changing individual & social life situations and to participate fully in the social & economic life of their community.


4. Careers are unique to each person and created by what one chooses or does not choose. They are dynamic and unfold throughout life.


5. Good career advising may be the single most underestimated characteristic of a school or college experience.


6. All students need career advising, even those who enter college already decided on an academic major.


7. Biological and environmental (familial, societal, cultural & religious) differences between boys and girls make their career choices different despite having similar aptitude.


8. In order to be successful in career, you need positive attitude besides aptitude.


9. All of us need to connect academic world with world of work, connect knowledge with skill and connect education with employment to live a successful life. Career guidance & career education is the best way to make that connection.


10. Vocational education has important short- and medium-run earning benefits for most students at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, and these benefits extend especially to those who are economically disadvantaged.


11. Vocational education as a policy is fundamentally sound but its implementation has been fundamentally flawed in most developing nations.


12. Growth of economy depends on availability of skilled workers and vocational education helps development of skilled labor force and thereby strengthens economy. The greater a country’s Gross Domestic Product per capita, the greater is its percentage of Technical & Vocational Enrollment, and vice versa is also true. Weaker the economy, lesser is the need for skilled labor. However, the relationship between economy and vocational education is not linear. Every country must develop its vocational education infrastructure not only dependent on demand of labor market & economic growth but also considering its social and political climate.


13.Too much academic education at the cost of vocational education results in creating few elite ruling majority poor class with wearing away of middle class. The stronger the vocational guidance & education in a country, broader will be its middle class and better will be democracy. The stronger the academic education disregarding vocational education in a country, narrower will be its middle class and weaker will be democracy.


14. Instead of general (academic) or vocational education, what we need is vocationalization of general education and academization of vocational education. We need fine balance between doctors and health care workers, between scientists and technicians and between managers and workers. This is possible only if there is integration and balance between academic education and vocational education. Integration and balance are different but not mutually exclusive and coexist simultaneously according to my theory of duality of existence which can be widened to include education. Just as light exists in dual form, wave & particle simultaneously; education also exists in dual form, academic & vocational. It is ‘out of box’ idea but I am sure that it will work.


Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD.

February 9, 2012



I wish I had received proper career guidance in my school days. I always felt that I should not have become a practicing doctor. I am best at being a teacher and all my college buddies know how many lectures and clinics I have taken for them when they appeared for their MD exams.

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