The vocational education sector has come together to create a free online TVET conference.

The Covid pandemic has seen a massive disruption to workforce upskilling and retraining throughout the Asia Pacific region, and the only solution to ensure the sustainability of workforces is a joint approach now from government, industry and educators.

Prioritising this has led leaders from some of New Zealand’s top vocational education institutions to come together to offer a free forum for the Asia Pacific region.

With the theme of ‘bringing us together’, the free virtual APAC Technical & Vocational Education Forum (TVET) will be put on by Education New Zealand, Te Pūkenga (New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology) and vocational education consultancy Skills Consulting Group, to share information and put skill building and innovation across the region in the spotlight.

Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, will be speaking at the APAC TVET forum alongside Education New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Grant McPherson, and Stephen Town, Chief Executive of Te Pūkenga, about the importance of working together now to ensure that issues around skills development and workforce innovation are prioritised and future proofed.

The free event will be held in a state-of-the-art virtual environment across two Fridays: Friday 5 November and Friday 12 November with networking opportunities and mini-sessions included on the gap days 8-11 November, to further the sharing of ideas.

Te Pūkenga Chief Executive, Stephen Town, says that vocational education plays a critical role in developing labour and workforce capability, and business and industry need to work together now to stem the skill shortages we are seeing across the region and do better for our learners.

“I look forward to coming together with other vocational education professionals to discuss our challenges, because these issues do face us all – industries, educators and governments alike – and we will all be better prepared to take on these challenges with the insights we share,” says Town.

Grant McPherson from Education New Zealand could not agree more, saying New Zealand’s strengths in vocational education show it has much to offer in terms of insights and expertise – the ability to show real leadership in this area throughout the APAC region.

“With the impact that COVID is currently having worldwide, it’s important to focus on addressing skills shortages by building and strengthening vocational expertise,” says McPherson. “With New Zealand’s increasing emphasis on applied learning and work ready graduates, our applied vocational sector has much to offer.”

Bridget Dennis, Vice President Global Markets for Skills Consulting Group, says the reality is that the Covid pandemic has changed the world in many ways and as we emerge, we will be emerging into a new normal, not returning to the old. The time is now, she says, to be innovative.

“This forum will bring together some of the most innovative thinking in the world in terms of skills development and will allow all of us in the APAC region to learn from each other, understand what role we need to play to enable successful skills development, and to apply this in our own context.

“We know on-job learning is widely acknowledged as the most cost-effective form of learning. By providing workers with ways to build skills and by providing pathways into the world of work and careers, business and industry can build the skills that workforces need to succeed.”

Dennis says that in the wider Asia Pacific region, there is still a very clear stigma around vocational education and a bias towards traditional white-collar careers. Plus, young people and women have been disproportionately impacted by Covid and the loss of jobs.

As part of the forum, a WorldSkills Champions Trust panel of learners from across the Asia Pacific region will be addressing these two issues and highlighting that, in this new era, it is time to be future-focussed and inclusive.

Dr Margarita Pavlova, the Director of UNESCO-UNEVOC Hong Kong and Associate Professor at the Education University of Hong Kong, will be presenting her research on policy, planning and curriculum development in vocational education at both a national and international level.

Dr Pavlova will be looking at sustainability with a particular emphasis on green skills development and what the greening of the vocational education sector might look like. This research has been funded by the Asian Development bank, the World Bank, UNESCO and the European Training Foundation. Also delving into this topic is Rajesh Khambayat, from PSS Central Institute of Vocational Education, Bhopal, who has been looking at how to promote green skills for environmental sustainability through vocational education in India.

The APAC TVET forum will also hear form Professor Christina Hong of the Technical and Higher Education Institute (THEi) based in Hong Kong and Marc Gomes, the group Senior VP and Head of Training for ADECCO Global (Zurich) with programme topics covering digital transformation, environmental sustainability, the modern-day apprenticeship, skills and training partnerships between institutions and companies, youth employment, and upskilling, reskilling and lifelong learning.

For the full list of presenters at the APAC TVET forum on 5 & 12 November, a detailed schedule and more information on how to register, visit www.apactvetforum.com. 

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