Partnering with Industry, Government and Schools to improve 21st Century Skills in Vocational Education

By | 2 minute read | December 1, 2020

The number of young adults who have attained a tertiary education has doubled in the last decade in Turkey according to the OECD, but regrettably the employment rate for tertiary-educated young adults has fallen by 6 percentage points. When we look deeper at the numbers, we observe that vocational technical school graduates have higher rates than other high school types in overall labor force participation and employment. However, student interest and enrollment rates for vocational schools have been lower than other academic schools across the country.

A new public-private partnership hopes to change this.  The “21st Century Skills in Vocational Education”, is a multi-partnership project led by Koç Holding, largest conglomerate in Turkey, Ministry of National Education and IBM, and executed by Development Workshop, a cooperative for social development.

The initiative hopes to address the needs of a changing workforce as conditions in the labor market, market economy and technology have led to a demand for new skills sets.  As professions evolve and become more tech-centric, we need to prepare our students to join the workforces of the future.

Koç Holding took the lead of the program at large. Some of the activities they included, establishment of design thinking room with technical equipment at a pilot school. In addition, their volunteers organized workshops and their subsidiary Arçelik’s R&D team worked with students on creating a protype of a washing machine. Development Workshop was our execution partner hence they curated and authored course material. We all worked together with the Ministry of National Education, which granted permissions for us to work in the schools and created commissions to approve the workshops.

We at IBM Turkey did our part by helping schools and their curriculums with supporting tools and information on technology trends and methodologies. IBM Volunteers provided teachers and students with extra-curricular training activities on AI, Cloud and Design Thinking and collaborated with the EBA TV – a TV channel of the Ministry of National Education – to broadcast courses on autonomous cars and definition of technology. This is especially valuable in the course of the current distance learning activities. With participation from Ministry of National Education, teachers and industry representatives, IBM Design Studio organized a design thinking session to formulate ways to enhance partnerships and collaborations between business and the vocational education ecosystem.

One of the key outcomes of these efforts was the transformation of the “Professional Development Workshop”, a course designed for nearly half a million students studying at vocational and technical education, to enable students to get to know their field of study, to get together with industry representatives and teachers from different disciplines and participate in design thinking processes. The new course material – developed by Development Workshop and approved by Ministry of National Education – leveraged IBM learning curriculums as well as new AI courses that are available on Open P-TECH, which is an online learning platform for students and teachers worldwide to help them to improve technical and professional skills.

As we look at the contributions of all of the parties involved into this effort, I am optimistic for the future of vocational education here in Turkey.  Public-partnerships like this one present us with new opportunities to further develop and shape the skills and workforce of the future—and thus enable our economies and societies to renew and strengthen. This collaboration showed that we can address societal challenges and make a difference if we work together across all sectors – public and private.