Drivers of Technical Excellence in the Skills Economy



Project Type

Explorative Research, Report

Duration

5 months

Role

Researcher

Tools

MS Teams, Nvivo, Excel

Overview

I participated in a cross-country case study in the vocational education sector, conducting and analyzing 56 semi-structured interviews across 7 countries. The research provided an overview of each country’s education strategy and highlighted crucial improvements needed for our partner organization. The findings were delivered in a report and presented at the international conference.





Project Initiation & Definition



About the project


With the UK government’s intention to reinvigorate the further education sector, WorldSkills UK wishes to better understand how to develop technical excellence at all levels, and further manage WorldSkills Competitions(WSC) with the highest standard to impact positively on the UK education and training system, and the economy more broadly.

From this study, we aim to understand how other countries develop their technical education workforce to ensure high-quality teaching standards, thus providing a successful educational model for our partner, WorldSkills UK, to develop their technical programs.


Target Group


  • Key stakeholders within the Technical and Vocational Education and Training(TVET) sector.
  • The study involved World Skills delegates, teachers, policy-makers, students, training supervisors in companies, TVET experts, CPD managers, and representatives from Chambers of Commerce.


Research Questions


How do other countries, with interesting or pioneering technical education systems, develop the skills of their technical education workforce to ensure high-quality teaching standards?


Research Design







Method & Approach







1. Literature Review


Our study commenced with an in-depth literature review, delving into policy documents, academic research, and grey literature. A comprehensive analysis of around 20 studies per country paved the way for identifying 8 pivotal areas, laying the foundation for subsequent interviews. This offered a more comprehensive understanding of each country’s strategies and policies in education.







2. Interview

With the study's explorative objectives, interviews were used as the primary research method. Each interview was recorded, transcribed, and subjected to thematic analysis. To secure participant anonymity, a pseudonym in the form of a letter and number was assigned to each participant. We asked questions with 5 major themes (curriculum, teaching, assessment, challenges, culture) found throughout the thematic analysis, and these questions were slightly different for each interview group. 






3. Thematic Analysis

Adopting thematic analysis as our analytical approach, we navigated through the rich tapestry of interview transcripts. Extracted codes were organized and cataloged using Nvivo software, revealing and reinforcing recurring themes systematically.







Research Findings 



1. WorldSkills are benchmarking international standards


WorldSkills played a vital role in bringing world-class standards into national skills systems. However, embedding international standards in the national skills system was seen as a key task. 


2. WorldSkills are linking organizations


Many of the case study countries, worked closely with different unions, trade organizations and networks of individual employers. This shows that WorldSkills could be seen as ensuring a close and responsive relationship between skills supply and demand, serving a vital function in the skills economy.


3. WorldSkills are supporting innovation


Training for WS Competitions was seen as providing crucial educational space to rethink processes in an environment where it was 'OK to get it wrong'. So that it is important for WS competitions to become a 'third place' where trainees could experiment with skills, processes, and pedagogy, while also providing a bridging mechanism to bring work-based innovations and developments into the training process


4. Curricular relevance and employer influence on the curriculum


Training qualified professionals according to the requirements of business could be accomplished through a close relationship between education and the job market. Industry and employer involvement and engagement were seen as fundamental in the new reforms in Hungary and India.


5. Managing change


The third space where trainees can freely explore their skills is clearly needed in the current curriculum and employer intervention plays a vital role in developing this concept in all countries including the UK, to enhance and drive technical excellence.


6. Networked skills system


Although each of the seven case countries differed in their approaches, findings highlighted the importance of embedding employers in the skills systems to create a broader global network around the TVET context. In the most successful systems, WorldSkills could be seen as an integral part of this network, bridging organizations, and strengthening network connections.




Opportunities


From the research findings, our team has identified four key opportunity areas that the client can address to enhance the effectiveness of their current TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) strategy.

Opportunity 1:
Development of skills economy

Opportunity 2: Art of teaching and innovation

Opportunity 3: System alignment and high-quality qualification

Opportunity 4: Technological change




Impact



Impact on Project


This research was presented at the WorldSkills Conference 2021, an international conference with world academics and policymakers, to suggest improvements of the skills economy in the UK.





Learning


1. Flexibility in timeline + Rapid research

Time management was a major challenge in the research process due to varying Covid-19 situations across countries. Rescheduling interviews and analysis with flexibility was necessary. To secure time for cross-country analysis, the research process was expedited for the last interview groups in Korea and India. Despite the tight schedule, I embraced the fast-paced research process and gained flexibility in research design, becoming more confident in handling unexpected situations.


2. Multi-stakeholder group management

Due to the diverse cultural, social, political, and educational contexts of each country, our stakeholders varied significantly. This presented a challenge in conducting a cohesive analysis. To address this, our team implemented an additional sampling process during cross-country analysis, grouping stakeholders with similar patterns and roles. This process required a deep understanding of cultural contexts, and building skills for managing future research projects with multinational stakeholders.




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