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Work is a major feature in most people’s lives. Not only does it provide them with the means of survival in terms of food, clothing and shelter, but also the type of work undertaken by individuals and groups has a major impact upon their self-identity, social status and standard of living.
One of the important distinctions that traditionally occurs in any consideration of work, and education for the world of work, is between work that has a largely intellectual component, and that which is highly practical in nature and requires the individual concerned to work ‘more with their hands than their head.’ Thus, the traditional distinction between ‘white collar employment,’ which generally means the professions and semi-professions, and work in offices, and ‘blue collar’ work, which involves technical skills in the various crafts and trades, and technicians and technologists, in productive enterprises. In the emerging Information Age, both the nature of work and preparation for work are undergoing major changes, so that such black and white distinctions have become problematical.
The field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, or TVET, requires both definition and differentiation from other designations. Throughout the course of history, various terms have been used to describe elements of the field that are now conceived as comprising TVET. These include: Apprenticeship Training, Vocational Education, Technical Education, Technical-Vocational Education (TVE), Occupational Education (OE), Vocational Education and Training (VET), Career and Technical Education (CTE), Workforce Education (WE), Workplace Education (WE) etc. Several of these terms are commonly used in specific geographic areas.
Participants at the world congress on TVET, held in Seoul in 1999, decided that the best, most comprehensive term to use is Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). This is reflected in the name of the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre in Bonn, Germany, which was established in 2000 as a direct result of recommendations arising from the Seoul congress in 1999.
Originally, the direct preparation for work was the main goal of TVET, and this remains prominent in many developing nations. However, with the technological revolutions and innovations in science and technology, during the 20th century, new domains of knowledge and new disciplines have become important at all levels of education and training. Further, the upward differentiation of TVET from first to second level and then to the third level of education has been an important development of the 20th century and sets the stage for the 21st century. The current focus is increasingly upon preparing knowledge workers to meet the challenges posed during the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, with its concomitant post-industrial human resource requirements and the changing world of work.