Worldwide, governments and education decision-makers are exploring innovative approaches, including the
re-engineering of their education systems, to address key concerns regarding skills development for employability, TVET and applied learning.
In the past, TVET may have been overly influenced by an “economic steerage” that served business and industry priorities for efficiency, productivity and growth. Unfortunately, this was often at the expense of the social licence to operate, safe and healthy working conditions, and the environment and natural resources upon which all wealth depends. However, the changing world of work now sees corporate social responsibility, occupational health and safety and environmental responsibility as significant strategic and operational priorities. These changes reflect initiatives from both private sector-led organisations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the World Economic Forum and Green Building Councils and United Nations and Member State policy initiatives (such as the Qatar National Vision 2030) for “green” national, regional and international economies that encourage sustainable and inclusive development.
In many cases, TVET has not adequately responded to these changes. TVET has also been slow to adjust to the impacts of technological change and digital disruption, which are making some occupations redundant, creating new ones and changing demands for skills. Ever-changing market conditions, logistics operations and supply chains too are demanding changes in occupational roles and the skills required for continual employability. Indeed, the demand now is for TVET to encompass a curriculum that provides both (i) industry/occupation specific knowledge and skills, at least for initial employment upon graduation, and (ii) generic skills and personal orientations for employability across occupations and industry sectors, appropriate to the changing world of work in the 21st Century.
Educational reforms that respond to these major social and economic developments are integral to the success of policy initiatives aimed at sustainable and inclusive development. Such reforms are encompassed within the movement to ground education in 21st Century Skills, examples being higher-level cognitive abilities (e.g. critical thinking and problem-solving), social competencies (e.g. communication, leadership, teamwork), and skills and values for creativity, sustainability and global citizenship. In terms of Qatar, these are the most pressing foci and needs.
Increasingly, these types of reforms are being reflected in TVET programs, but these are not widespread and need to be scaled-up and mainstreamed as part of deeper systemic reforms within TVET if people are to be educated to efficiently participate in and benefit from, the economic and social changes rapidly taking place worldwide.
Indeed, it could be argued that it is a national and global necessity for TVET thinkers and systems to lead such educational reforms due to the integral role of the world of work in counteracting the negative impacts of poverty, growing economic inequalities, resource depletion and climate change.
It is widely held that educational research can play a crucial role in policy formulation and decision-making aimed at strengthening and upgrading, and thereby improving, educational practice and learning outcomes. Research on technical and vocational education and training is an internationally established and widely recognised focus of educational research.
A new international research agenda is required in TVET so that vocational education can best meet its obligations to change, in alignment with the dynamics of internationalised technological and economic development, globalised logistics and supply chains. Increasing regulations about the environment and working conditions, and the establishment of international labour markets that depend on the cross-border mobility of employees have all led to a growing interest in TVET-related research.
Hence, the focus of this International Experts' Meeting was the placement of TVET research in supporting the transformation of skills development programs to better support sustainable and inclusive growth. A case study was made of the Qatari context with regard to the transition to a knowledge-based economy paramount in the context of the goals of Qatar National Vision 2030 and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution 4.0.