The Future of Technical and Vocational Education
Jobs move from country to country because of cost and competence. The costs of labour, power, transport, raw materials are all part of the decision matrix used in choosing where to locate manufacturing and support services.
But one key equation now having a massive impact on job location is the balance between labour cost and the application of technology to reduce the labour component not just in manufacturing but also in many services.
Application of Technology and Jobs
The massively accelerated application of robotics in manufacturing has changed the decision matrix, and low labour costs in developing economies are now being offset by lower labour input costs in developed economies adopting robotics and new materials.
Further drivers for this trend is the requirement for far greater precision in manufacturing, the increasing demand for weight reduction and the need for materials strengthening using highly advanced carbon fibre tech and metal alloys.
For TVET, a revolution in curriculum is required to prepare graduates for an immediate job, but also for continuing employment. Imagine having been trained on extractive technology such as ..cutting, boring, turning using the finest CBM equipment only to find that employment depends on additive technology, the application of 3D printers.
Equally, imagine developing good entry level skills in working with metals when the available jobs are using carbon fibre requiring molding rather than cutting skills. Imagine being prepared for assembly line work and competing with a robot for the job.
Intrusion of Computers into Design
Beyond this, the intrusion of computers into all aspects of design changes the skills required of all new workers in the majority of classic technologies. The hollowing out of jobs in most manufacturing industries is evidence of this and the primary reason for the migration of jobs from low wage countries back to higher technology countries which they left over the past 20 years.
Increasingly, manufacturing exists in eco-systems of computer control in which all machines talk to each other and share information. A design change is automatically shared with all equipment in the manufacturing process and they adjust to this without assistance. The internet of things is visible in the integrating of household equipment with a cell phone, but the far greater impact is the linking of all parts of a process within an ecosystem.
IBM, Google, Microsoft, SAS and others are in a foot race against each other to develop these integrated systems that will dominate the workspace. Are we preparing TVET graduates for this environment?
There is always the concern that new technologies take forever to make it into the job site. Remember the Laser? In 3 decades it moved from the Lab to a pervasive intrusion in almost every aspect of our lives especially in the workplace. 3D printers have begun this process and as industries find applications, they will disrupt not just the workplace, but employment prospects for those without mastery of the necessary knowledge.
How can TVET Educators Respond?
It’s a new world for TVET. Educators will move on, or they will simply become irrelevant.
In many developing countries, the TVET institutions have achieved virtual irrelevancy already as the needs of employers move further and further away from the capabilities and capacity of the institutions.
What are you doing right now to future proof your career or that of your students?