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Voluntarist and Regulated Approaches to Vocational Education and Training Tend to Embody Opposite Logics Essay

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Meaning and Importance of Vet

Human resource development is given impetus by the fact that giving employees knowledge and required skills can completely change organisations and improve lives (Grugulis 2007a, p.1). When skills are well deployed they provide support for national and organisational competitiveness which enables companies to perform better (Grugulis 2007a, p.1).

Therefore training and development safeguard productivity and supporting it and therefore firms have been able to prepare employees for current and future jobs. Many firms have resulted to training the internal employees on the knowledge and skills relevant to its functions (Grugulis 2007a, p.2).

On the other hand educational systems in a place do affect the human resource development in any country (Grugulis 2007b, p.58).

With the scientific revolution in the workplace calling for higher levels of education; training, greater exercise of intelligence and mental efforts as well as Vocational Education and Training (VET) is an inevitable player in human resource development and management (Ashton 2001, p.165).

This is because there is need for a more competent skilled labour workforce for sustainable development, which is established on the idea of keeping in mind the ecological effects by use of suitable technologies. Furthermore, for there to be any growth in the social and economic scene, particular types of human capital and skills are required (CEDEFOP 2010).

The issues vocational education and training at workplace are not only the concerns of individual workers and employers but of the whole society. In a larger picture an educated and skilled human resource is the backbone of a well functioning and productive economy which is presumed competitive, wealthy and nurturing the wellbeing of the whole society (Holden 2001a, p.341).

This paper is going to examine the two approaches to vocational education and training: the voluntary and regulated approaches and will show how these approaches employ opposite logics in their application.

Approaches to Vocational Education and Training

Vocational education and training is a major stakeholder in preparing and developing human resource which is compatible to the changing demands on the workplace due to technological transformation.

However there are different interpretations of the form and nature of what should be an objective Vocational Education and Training (VET) system and because of varied needs of skills at different places there are different approaches to this training and educational discourse (Holden 2004a, p.356; Grugulis 2007b, p.56).

With time, it has been noted that Vocational education and training is important especially due to its recurrence in the agenda of bi- and multilateral donors (CEDEFOP 2010).

This is mainly because of three reasons: Firstly, despite the fact that UNESCO Education for all initiative has succeeded in bringing improved enrolment rates and quality of primary education, several concerns arise, particularly with regard to the way in which the employability in secondary education graduates can be promoted.

In addition, the worldwide ecological and socioeconomic development patterns have allowed for the principle of Vocational Education and Training as well as the development of human capital (Wallenborn 2010, p.182). With all these proposals needing attention the question remains as to whether the two approaches; voluntary or compulsory [regulated] are compatible (Holden 2001a, p.356).

Regulated Approach

This approach is also known as compulsory because there is usually a legislation that requires employers to ensure that their employees are given a specific training and education.

Harrison (1995:38, quoted in Holden 2001a, p.356) reports that under this approach, the liberal democrats, the TUC, the commission for social justice and the labour party call for employers’ coercion through legislation to offer training to the employees.

This regulation usually happens in a number of varied forms (Ashton and Felstead 2001, p.167). For instance, in France, it is a requirement for employers to back up training or otherwise give a certain amount to the state. In Germany, on the other hand, a system of stringent and broad apprenticeship of youths who are prospective members of the labour market is provided.

In addition, there are ‘licenses to practice’ which are required for different lines of work (Grugulis 2007b, p.54). This approach assumes that vocational Education and Training is beneficial to the entire society and has lifelong benefits to all in order to obtain an extremely competent work force.

The compulsory approach gets a lot of backing from the fact that investing in Vocational Education and Training (VET) can be effective in promoting socioeconomic progress, increasing economic competitiveness and reducing poverty in the triangle of productivity, employability and sustainable growth (Wallenborn 2010, p.181).

Therefore the assumption created in this approach is that if companies and firms are not forced to train their employees they will only put much emphasis on profits making and therefore the society and individuals will never progress and this will be reflected in the whole economy.

Moreover, when left to their own companies concentrate on short term benefits, which more often than not, have proved to be of poor quality and do not develop a person as can be seen in the case of United Kingdom (Holden 2001b).

Another major outcome of this is that these companies at times tend to enrol workers who have been trained in other places without necessarily training their own workers (Grugulis 2007a, p.2). Through the provision of a suitable base or even the idea of the payable levies and the regulation of this training, a full-bodied development of skills is guaranteed to the state.

Voluntarist Approach

This approach is the direct opposite of the regulated where the government and other stakeholders have so little to do as far as their influence on the general Vocational Education and Training system in a given nation is concerned (Grugulis 2007a, p.3).

Contrary to what it insisted in the regulated approach labour party for instance has shifted its stand from where the organisation should be compelled to provide training, in what is known as levy system, to this recent proposal which adopts the element of persuasion (Holden 2001a, p.356).

In the voluntarist approach the individual or organization is the one to be involved in the choosing of the kind of training and whether to do it or not as in some cases where the trade union have to negotiate with the employer on the kind of training to be accorded to the employee (Boheim and Booth 2004, p.520).

The approach assumes that the effectiveness of any given firm is boosted if the firm has little or no bottlenecks that arise from external regulations hence adopting a unitary kind of workplace relationship (Harrison 2002, p.36).

Through the market forces, such as the need to stay on the competing edge, production of high quality commodities and the need for smooth and efficient running of the firms usually see to it that if there is suitable training, the companies will capitalize on it.

Since there will be no costly and strict bureaucracy, such an investment will be made in such a manner as to correspond accurately to the demands of the market (Ashton 2004, p.23).

Comparison of the Two

In comparing the two approaches it is therefore evident that they are opposites in that one adopts a persuasive approach while the other one relies on compulsion. The differences between the two are however much clear in theory than in practice (Grugulis 2007b, p.53).

The regulated approach is adopted when a country wants to achieve the level of skills it need thus putting regulations on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems (Holden 2001b, p.54). While this is taken as a social justice that would promote good for all, it is looked at as a form of taxation by the antagonists.

Regulated approach looks at the society as a whole and a company welfare whereby when skills are requires, there is no need of it searching for them from outside but source them from within (Grugulis 2007a, p.2).

The voluntary approach on the other hand considers that there should be liberal kind of operation in the workplace where freedom is given for the firm to determine whether to train or not and for that case workers have limited rights but more responsibilities (Rainbird 2002).

Here the government do not coerce individuals or companies but appeal to their good will to adopt the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system for their good as in the United Kingdom (CEDEFOP 2009).

This is also driven by the market needs where in case a certain skill is lacking in the market, firms can train their employees but if the skill is there in abundance they do not invest much in training. In summary the two can be contrasted in that first while regulated approach recognise the importance of skills at work voluntarist approach do not develop value or develop skills.

In addition, Voluntarist approach’s training is very narrow while regulated approach is broad and much focused. In a regulated approach there is employee input and investment facilitation but voluntary approach only favours the employer by limiting employees input and thus becomes a disincentive to investment (Rainbird 2002).

Case Studies

A case study on the VET systems of different nations reveals that very different policies that govern the same are employed and as a result leading to several varied impacts (Grugulis 2007a).

We are going to look at the cases of United Kingdom and Germany and it is also quite clear that for the two countries, there are a number of itineraries that are traversed in Vocational Education and Training, which range from comparatively low degree strategies such as Training for Work in Germany to higher ones such as university graduate and postgraduate degrees (Westwood 2004, p.45).

It is worth noting that institutional uniqueness in different countries makes it impossible for systems to be compatible and this is actually the major reasons as to why there are different approaches to Vocational Education and Training in different countries.

The United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the voluntarist approach to Vocational Education and Training (VET) is used and traditionally companies are given the lee way to allow for training and development to their various employees.

Vocational Education and Training (VET) was in essence introduced in the United Kingdom to develop the youth into practicable members of society rather than being just mere workers (Harrison & Kessels 2004, p.36).

Due to the comparative decline in the economy in the United Kingdom several issues have popped up to establish what education can do in either stopping or turning around this pattern (Heyes and Stuart 1996).

A rather apparent fact is that the employers on their own are not in a position to meet the cost of gaining the overall objective required by the nation for investment in training, education and development and hence trade union’s involvement (Sutherland & Rainbird 2000, p.197).

This emanates from the fact that employers only work to achieve the goals of their establishments rather than those of the nation at large. It is also worth noting that they work in a jumble of complicated and low quality Vocational Education and Training courses, touchstones and makings (Grugulis 2007a, p.3).

That is why one time the French government altered its voluntarist approach so as to deal with the country’s deficit of skills in a schematic manner. Nevertheless, there is still a raging argument on whether or not the voluntarist approach should be done away with (Rubery & Grimshaw 2003).

In line with this, the Labour government in the year 2000 made it clear that it was not going to take on a training levy any soon, which only points to only one thing; the voluntarist approach will also not be discarded any soon (Holden 2001b).

In the United Kingdom there is less state intervention in giving directives for training of staff and the major targets are short term benefits (Harrison 2002).

Due to the practical experience of the businesses, which have very much boosted their carrying out of activities through investment in people, IIP provides a nation level benchmark which determines the rationales that bond training and development action directly to the objectives of the business so as to ensure there is effective and sustainable use of the resources provided for training and development (Boheim and Booth 2004, p.538).

Through this, all classes of organizations are in a position to gauge their progress as far as performance in their businesses is concerned (Lloyd & Payne 2004).

In the last month of the year 1999, a total of 16454 firms including units within them had already obtained national standards as Investors to people and about twenty two thousand were already committed in arriving at the reward. This reward in turn gives the organizations significant gains that help them to work for, and achieve that standard.

From research it was concluded that the benefits are accrued from the ensuring that strategy is used in the training and that the needs of the business are met through the same. Particularly, the firms assert that when working towards IIP, it assists them to elucidate and put across the objectives of the business and speeding up continuous advancement go-aheads (Ashton 2004, p.27).

There is also marked participation of managers in the development of individuals hence uniting rather unrelated action (Heyes 2000, p.150). As a result, the administrative staff members obtain the attention that may have been overlooked in the past.

Other firms conceive the idea that IIP will enable them to increase their profitability, efficiency in sales as well as incomes while at the same time operating at a reduced cost (Ashton 2004, p.28).

Other studies reveal that discrepancies may arise in recognition especially when a firm is aiming at retaining the reward after a period of three years. As such, individuals may underperform and only up their game after three years when they need to be recognized.

To achieve this reward, significant endeavour has been established. However, the gains will only be achieved through the underlying logistics and reflexive activities that are used in the training (Grugulis 2007a).


In Germany the vet system is usually regulated where Occupational Labour Market system is mainly used and there are strong establishments for employers. There is also a dual VET system which emanates from the unanimity and the sundry workplace and school based system which has been cited as a perfect example of top-drawer pattern (Brown et al. 2008).

The system may be seen as if it sources financing from the state the state but the truth is that a bigger percentage of the Vocational Solid co-operation emanates from among the employers, state as well as the trade unions (Harrison 2002).

In Germany Vocational Education and Training is therefore financed by the employers who, together with the trade unions, back the central and local government in the running of the same (Ashton and Felstead 2001, p.185).

To ensure that the VET system is made compulsory, there are laws and guidelines that have been established to ensure that the employers are obliged to fund as well as set aside resources necessary for the training purposes (Sutherland & Rainbird 2000). The structures, processes and establishments that run the system are collectively administered by the employers, unions and the state (Ashton and Felstead 2001, p.185).

The two-fold arrangement is classified into three stages whereby the very inaugural phase starts in the terminal years of being in school (Ashton and Felstead 2001, p.169). In this phrase a lot of emphasis is put on the high level education for every individual because of a great realization that a beneficial general education gives a firm foundation for learning in the future (Harrison 2002).

A great percentage of young school leavers begin apprenticeship as well as other young people who have qualifications that are in one way or another equivalent to A-levels. The others are absorbed into the tertiary educational institutions.

This dual system puts much emphasis on the substantial relationship theory and practice when it comes to training (Boheim and Booth 2004, p.526). The apprentice devotes a fraction of his or her time in attending the vocational college while another part of the same is spent obtaining integrated training from a skilled workman within the apprentice’s working environment (Sutherland & Rainbird 2000).

It is a strict requirement that the skilled workman (otherwise known as a meisterwerker) is well equipped with instruction techniques (Ashton 2001). Both instructions given on and out of the job usually undergo cautious co-ordination so as to ensure the resultant vocational course covers all the details concerning the trade of the given apprentice and the skills required therein.

This is widely accepted in the entire labour market in Germany (Lloyd & Payne 2004) because it saves the employer the task of going outside the company to poach those workers who are already trained by other organizations (NATFE and Youthaid quoted by Felstead & Green 1994, p.199).

The state agencies, establishments and the youth jointly meet the costs of the dual system. This is in the sense that the firms commit themselves to the payment of on-the-job training while the youths have to do with comparatively meagre pays and the public funds are used to pay for the vocational institutions.

Despite the fact that Germany offers a great number of apprenticeship places, only a fraction of them are taken especially ever since the year 1986, mainly due to the fact that the 1990s ushered a new era of unmanageable times (Harrison 2002).

Compared to the United Kingdom, Germany boasts of thrice their workforce despite their labour forces being equal (Wallenborn 2010). It is however worth noting that much as the vocational Education and Training policies in Germany are very much regulated they may no longer be in a position to reduce the number of unemployed individuals in the present days (Brown et al. 2008, p.46).

There is however problems which relate to the fitting and structure and capacity when compared to the ever fluctuating demand and supply of trained human resources in the job market (Ashton 2004, p.25). Germany has also experienced far much more mutual reciprocal action between education and training as compared to several other countries which adopt the regulated VET system.


Human resource development is so indispensable that the way of developing it has been theorized in varied models and each is aimed at its best. VET system is an objective model that enables organizations and firms to have knowledgeable and skilled manpower which can enable them achieve their goals in operation.

On the other hand there is a concern in socioeconomic welfare in impacting knowledge on individuals as this enables them to be compatible and ensure continuity even when recession comes.

That is why some countries like Germany create regulations to force firms to offer training to their employees because this training has an impact on a person and society at large. This regulated kind of vocational education and training is where the organizations and firms are obliged to invest in training in their employees and liable to law incase that is not done.

On the other hand some countries do not believe that this control is important and they prefer leaving the options to individuals and firms to do it their fashion like the case of United Kingdom. A close examination of the VET systems in the UK and Germany proves that voluntary and the regulated approaches are direct opposites and they embody dissent logics.

While regulated approach presumes that, when left a lone, most firms will concentrate on making profit and forget training employees, the voluntarist approach believes that when left at their discretion firms can perform better than when they operate under control.

Moreover, regulated approach takes into account the good of the whole society starting with the worker because when a worker is skilled, he or she can deploy the skills elsewhere therefore as firms get profits the employee can get skills but voluntarist approach seems to favor the employer.

This society cooperation and concern is seen in Germany where a culture is created for all stakeholders; parents, state, employers and training institutions work together towards a common goal.

In the case of UK the voluntarist approach reveal a lot of employer laxity in employees and that is why any slight recession would lead to employers retrenching workers and poaching for those who have experiences without incurring the cost of training them when the economy recovers.

With these direct opposing logics, expectations and outcomes the voluntary and regulated approaches to VET are two opposing approaches to a single policy. In short the two are aimed at opposing goals, means and ends.


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