Vocational Education and Training (VET): Should You Do It?

Post by Open Colleges on August 21st, 2012

Theories and philosophies are nice, but you need practical knowledge to get a job.

If this describes how you feel, then Vocational Education and Training (VET) might be for you. In the past, some people have looked down on VET as somehow “less” than the education you get at a regular university, but is this really true? What exactly is the difference between what you would be learning in VET and the classes you’d take at a typical institution of higher learning?

Vocational Education and Training courses tend to concentrate more on developing specific skills for occupations, while university classes deal more in theory and generalized knowledge for different career paths. So rather than university students getting “better” knowledge, in reality VET is just designed differently – it provides you with different knowledge that has a different purpose.

What is this purpose? Well, while university educations are primarily just about that – educating you so that you have a large base of knowledge about the world – the goal of VET is to provide you with a certificate or degree that enables you to work within a specific profession.

What kinds of industries can you work in after completing VET? Practically any that you want! Floral services, automotive, business advertising, occupational health and safety, viticulture, music, hospitality, law, and even more.

If you’re trying to decide between studying at a university or going through a VET program, here are some things to consider:

VET programs are shorter. Vocational Education and Training programs are set up so that you can get a variety of different diplomas or certificates depending on how advanced your hopeful future profession is. For job types that don’t require as much in-depth knowledge, the timeframe it takes to earn your certificate is shorter – as little as a few weeks. But even the longest VET program, the one you would take to obtain an advanced diploma, can be completed in 24 to 36 months.

Better yet, VET programs aren’t just designed with some arbitrary timeline that you have to slog through in order to “pass.” Once you can show that you have reached the skill level that the program requires, you can get your qualification. Contrast this with university studies, which take the equivalent of four years worth of work – or longer! – before you are allowed to earn your degree.

VET programs offer you up-to-date industry norms. At the speed with which things are changing in all kinds of workplaces, “career path” knowledge isn’t enough anymore – you need to be able to keep up with the latest trends and ways of doing business. That’s exactly what VET students are taught, and this knowledge has helped lots of people find gainful employment in high-paying professions.

How are these programs able to teach to up-to-date policies and procedures? Because VET courses are constantly being refined through consultation with the respective industry to which they are attached. That means that if all bankers suddenly stop using iPhones and go back to only using rotary phones, your VET program will teach you how to use a rotary phone. Obviously, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.

VET programs are national. No one thinks that it will happen to them, but every year circumstances in their lives force students to transfer from one school to another. What happens if this occurs during your university studies? Will your credits transfer?

VET students don’t need to worry about this problem, because the curriculum is exactly the same from state to state. Moving in the middle of your course means that you’ll be transferring the credits you’ve earned to an identical program and can pick up right where you left off.

VET programs give you practical work experience. University education tends to put students in a sort of bubble where they are free to learn all kinds of different things about the world in an effort to provide them with a large base of knowledge that they can they take out into the world and use as they see fit. In theory, it sounds really nice, but unfortunately the world isn’t run on theory, and employers want to see clear transferable skills in their job applicants.

Vocational Education and Training programs give you these skills by educating you about the specific ways in which your chosen profession works. This includes letting you learn how your workplace operates, showing you what you’ll be doing and how to do it, and teaching you interpersonal skills so that you can handle the people at your job, too.

VET programs don’t preclude university study. The nice thing about choosing between VET programs and universities is that it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. Nothing is stopping someone who goes through a VET program first from later attending university. The difference is that, if you do decide to do this, you can transfer your credits over to the university so that you don’t have to re-take lower level courses you’ve already completed, which not only saves you time but money as well.

Of course, none of this definitively answers whether you should choose VET over going to university, and the only person who can really answer that question is you. Are you goal-oriented with a clear idea of what you want to do, and always impatient to get on to the next part of your life? If so, enrolling in a Vocational Education Training program might be a better option for you – remember, you can always transfer those credits to a university later, and you’ll probably have saved money by doing so!

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