Connecting business and education

Bi-partisan agreement enacted in Parliament sets out that accredited Vocational Education and Training providers may issue a skills card with the qualifications, or portable evidence, of the level of competence attained in a recognised occupation to a student who completes an accredited work-based course

Last March Parliament enacted, with a bi-partisan agreement, a new legislation titled Work-based Learning and Apprenticeship Act. This, after extensive consultation amongst academics, the industry , economic services providers and students.

In essence, the new law provides the legal framework to facilitate vocational education and training which aims to equip learners with vocational education, skills and competences required for specific occupations. It gives the opportunity to students to learn through work experiences where they can apply academic and technical skills and develop their employability opportunities. Learners can attend a period of instruction and training within an industrial, commercial or service workplace as part of on-the-job training or education programme which will be certified at the end of the course.

It sets out that accredited Vocational Education and Training providers licensed by the National Commission for Further and Higher Education, may issue a skills card with the qualifications, or portable evidence, of the level of competence attained in a recognised occupation to a student who completes an accredited work-based course.

Students following such Work Integrated Learning courses will be eligible to a remuneration equivalent to the minimum wage per hour. This will be derived from the sponsor and from the maintenance grant. Employers will also benefit from tax credits when they become VET providers.

This legislation gives an opportunity to school-leaving students with an aptitude to do rather than to listen in ‘normal’ classroom environment, the possibility to obtain a Degree, Diploma , Certificate or Award after successfully completing an apprenticeship and internship programme at an accredited business entity.

Over the past weekend I participated at a Symposium organised by the World Association for Cooperative Education. WACE is an international organisation linking the world’s higher education institutions, employers and public authorities that share a commitment of preparing new generations for a lifetime of professional success in today’s global and diverse workforce. Interesting reports and ensuing discussions showed how members of this group are advancing cooperative and work-integrated education in their respective countries. Education is now being firmly and successfully integrated with professional work experience. It was interesting to learn how countries like the USA and Canada who were pioneers on developing work-integrated learning and co-operative education benefited in human resources development, when they incorporated cooperative and work-integrated education programmes with industry and the various players within the economic sectors.

Most inspiring were the recent comments by Pope Francis on the dimension that learning should take when he said that “we must educate minds, hearts and hands”. True enough. We have embarked on a reform in the way education is delivered. It is evolving to take consideration of the real demands of today’s and future economy needs. We owe this to our future generation to be prepared to face the changes, challenges and opportunities that will be prevalent in the future.

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