Vocational ...

Much to my annoyance, I witnessed an academic disparage some much needed technical (and industry) skills; describing them as vocational. Sadly, a word which I think is the epitome of how technical discipline should be done in academia was for them, a word that meant that it was not in their mind of the right academic standard.

Three reasons, why I think that 'vocational' is a great word and of a suitable academic standard:

  • Students need skills; higher skills, advanced skills, discipline based skills, whatever you want to call it. Skills is at the core of vocational and vice versa. Degree students, must develop other disciplines such as critical thinking. But if they cannot 'do'. They may be of little use in the computing or telecommunications sector. It is not difficult to convert skills into critical thinking tasks. 
  • It is at the core of what the industry wants, but in many universities it is sadly seldom what we give them after three or more years of undergraduate study. Sadly, higher education does not simply for its own sake. With STEM being the core of current funding policy. There has been a long standing demand, which I doubt we are fulfilling.
  • Students come out with a degree that may look great on paper, but often in computer science, network engineering and so on, lack the ability to do anything useful. Ironic, when you think that many are now paying £9000 a year to ensure this very thing. They want and need that vocational element in order to perform. We hear of graduate nurses now lacking some of the tradition of care; the vocation, does this idiom translate into our field. Has losing the polytechnic meant a loss of the technical discipline in some areas.
I make no secret of my advocacy for vendor certification. While personally I am more aligned with Cisco and CompTIA, via my professional practice. But take the view that any vendor, with any certification, if it works for the student and their career development is a must have.

In the past, I used to run a specialist 'training centre', each year, I would collect a handful of students from the local university. Who would pay the extra £1000+ with my organisation to take the CCNA. Because their MSc had little use when applying for jobs. Please note that this was from some six or more years ago.

In total; I have another 20 years in the sector, I doubt I will sway on my bias towards vocational being great for our students. What I do need is more advocates to join in.


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