DRS 255 SKILLS IN VOCATIONAL ASSESSMENT INCLUDING ECONOMIC,
FUNCTIONAL AND SOCIAL ABILITIES
VOCATIONAL EDUCATION AND TRAINING
Vocational education (also known as vocational education and training or VET) is an
education that prepares people for specific trades, crafts andcareers at various levels from
a trade to a craft or a professional position in engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, and
other healing arts,architecture, pharmacy, law etc. Craft vocations are usually based on manual
or practical activities, traditionally non-academic, related to a specific trade, occupation,
or vocation. It is sometimes referred to as technical education as the trainee directly develops
expertise in a particular group of techniques. In the UK some higher technician engineering
positions that require 4-5 year apprenticeship require academic study to HNC / HND or higher
City and Guilds level.
Vocational education may be classified as teaching procedural knowledge. This can be
contrasted with declarative knowledge, as used in education in a usually broader scientific field,
which might concentrate on theory and abstract conceptual knowledge, characteristic of tertiary
education. Vocational education can be at the secondary, post-secondary level, further
education level and can interact with the apprenticeship system. Increasingly, vocational
education can be recognized in terms of recognition of prior learning and partial academic
credit towards tertiary education (e.g., at auniversity) as credit; however, it is rarely considered in
its own form to fall under the traditional definition of higher education.Vocational education is
related to the age-old apprenticeship system of learning. Apprenticeships are designed for many
levels of work from manual trades to high knowledge work.
However, as the labor market becomes more specialized and economies demand higher levels of
skill, governments and businesses are increasingly investing in the future of vocational education
through publicly funded training organizations and subsidized apprenticeship or traineeship
initiatives for businesses. At the post-secondary level vocational education is typically provided
by an institute of technology, university, or by a local community college.Vocational education
has diversified over the 20th century and now exists in industries such
as retail, tourism, information technology, funeral services and cosmetics, as well as in the
traditional crafts and cottage industries.A vocational education teaches practical job training in a
hands-on environment that is typically not in a classroom. Vocational school graduates have a
variety of jobs, including mechanic, carpenter, mason, cake decorator and landscaper. While
vocational programs vary by school, students usually leave a program with a specific set of skills
they can apply to their future career.
VOCATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
Vocational assessment is defined as the global appraisal of an individual's work/training
background, general functional capacities, and social/behavioral characteristics. It usually
includes an evaluation of medical factors, psychological makeup, educational background, social
behaviors, attitudes, values, work skills and abilities (Chan et al., 1997). Vocational evaluation,
on the other hand, is a specific process that involves the appraisal of a person's work related
characteristics important for education and training to obtain and maintain employment. It
includes a comprehensive review of specific work characteristics, including but not limited to
occupational interests, specific job skills, worker traits, general intelligence, temperaments,
physical capacities, strength, range of motion, and other work-related functions and aptitudes
(Chan et al., 1997). Pertaining to the specificity of vocation evaluation, there are different
domains that are imperative in understanding the more global picture of vocational success for
individuals with disabilities.
Such domains include: personal factors such as personality, interests, intelligence, cognitive
capacities, educational achievement, personal adjustment, social adjustment, interpersonal skills,
and work-related factors such as work experience, vocational adjustment, vocational aptitudes,
and work behaviors. Additionally, situational factors also play an important role in vocational
rehabilitation needs and employment outcomes. Such factors include medical, psychiatric,
psychological, cultural, social, recreational, vocational, educational and environmental needs.
Since much personal and work-related information needs to be gathered in order to set specific
vocational goals and to provide the appropriate intervention, vocational evaluation is an
important and continuous process that are done throughout the whole vocational rehabilitation
process. While some of the methods and processes described are labeled as "assessment", often
such methods are used as part of the information feeding process for the rehabilitation
professions for interventions (e.g. recommendations to improve work environments, counseling
individuals with disabilities in choosing and adjusting to a job). Because of different levels of
severity disabilities, a variety of assessment methods and processes are employed in order to
capture a holistic level of information pertaining to the individual being served.
The use of work sample approach is often employed, especially for individuals with severe
physical and/or cognitive disabilities. This is another standardized vocational testing often used.
Smith (1991) defines work sample method as an assessment method to measure the particular job
skills by having the individuals demonstrate their competency in a situation that is parallel to that
at work under realistic and standardized conditions. Therefore, it is a measure of the aptitude of
an individual, i.e., the ability of an individual to learn a particular task or skill. The work sample
methods, unfortunately, may not have been a popular tool in contemporary rehabilitation in
vocational counseling because this process requires the purchase of specific work samples which
could be expensive especially when one requires a wide range of work samples for specific
samples of different jobs, and frequent updating may not be feasible (Thomas, 1999). In addition,
most traditional work samples tend to focus more on manual work tasks than service-related
work tasks. However, the use of work samples still has its value, especially its face validity, and
close proximity to a real job task (Lee et al., 2008).
Job analysis (JA) is another commonly employed assessment and vocational process in gathering
information and recommending work accommodation in vocational rehabilitation. The process
of job analysis focuses on the description of the job but less on the worker's characteristics.
Rehabilitation professionals often are required to conduct an in depth interview with a person
who is familiar with the nature of the job, or who conducts an actual on-site analysis of the job.
A detailed profile of the different essential job tasks required for a particular job is constructed.
Examples include job skills, environments, working conditions (e.g., exposure to extreme
temperatures, toxins), types of training and education needed (e.g., on-the-job training, specific
vocational training, certificates), types, frequency and duration of certain physical activities (e.g.,
lifting, carrying, sitting, standing, crouching, climbing, smelling, tasting, near vision), and levels
of strenuousness (e.g., sedentary, light, heavy). The purpose of a job analysis is to allow the
rehabilitation professional to be able to match the compatibility of the particular job to the client,
and be able to recommend job modification and accommodations if needed (Weed & Field,
SITUATIONAL ASSESSMENT AND PROCESS
Another method of vocational evaluation or process often employed by rehabilitation specialists
is the situational assessment approach. Similar to work samples, situational assessment places an
individual with a disability in a simulated work condition and environment that resembles the
actual job that the person will be place. This approach focuses on assessment and information
gathering on the general employability skills and adaptive work behaviors. This is preferable and
considered the most appropriate for people with disabilities, especially those with severe
disabilities and limited work histories. It usually requires the rehabilitation professional to
conduct observation of the client's work behavior in the simulated situations, and it often takes
two or more weeks. Due to the length required for assessment, this method is usually most time-
consuming and expensive.
COMMUNITY-BASED ASSESSMENT AND PROCESS
An extension to the situational assessment approach is the community-based vocational
evaluation. This is analogous to the situation assessment approach described above, except it is
conducted in vivo. This approach assesses in vivo both work personality and skills in a
competitive work environment through observation in real life situations. This approach allows
the gathering and provision of tremendously useful and functional information, rather than only
specific skills, for both the worker as well as the employer. For instance, observing the client
performing and interacting with others in a real job situation, allows the professional to identify
and develop the strength and effective coping skills of the client. Modification can be done on
either the person and/or the environment upon identification of the problem. In addition, teaching
can often be done on site, e.g., teach individuals how to acquire social, political or psychological
resources to improve their conditions. Therefore, other considerations such as dealing with
unexpected workload from supervisor, busy phone calls in relation to the ability of the clients
and any potential impact on them.
TRANSFERRABLE SKILLS ANALYSIS
Transferrable skills analysis (TSA) is another technique that is commonly used to evaluate the
skills of an individual. This is probably most applicable to individuals who have an injury in
which their pre-injury skills are compared to the post-injury skills level for job placement.
Operationally, transferrable skills are defined as:
"skills that can be used in other work (transferability)…the skills that can be used in other jobs,
when the skilled and semi-skilled work activities you did in past work can be used to meet the
requirements of skilled and semi-skilled work activities of other kinds of work. Transferability is
most probably and meaningful among jobs in which
i. the same or less degree of skill is required
ii. the same or similar tools and machines are used; and
iii. the same or similar raw materials, products, processes, or services are
involved" (Weed, & Field, p.102).
The TSA process is usually used in situations in which the worker has skills that can be
transferred to another position that result in a relatively quicker job placement and the return to
self-sufficiency for the worker, as compared to a job placement that bears a minimal relationship
to existing skills of the worker.
VOCATIONAL SKILLS AUDIT OR ASSESSMENT
A vocational skills audit examines the skills that are present in an employee or a workforce and
the skills that are needed to successfully perform a job. This assessment helps point out areas of
strength and needed development.
A vocational skills self-audit helps you determine what skills and abilities you have acquired,
where your skills are strongest and where you might need to focus your training, education or
self-development. Many people perform a self-assessment of this type when they are considering
changing careers, applying for a promotion or are on the job market.
To perform a self-assessment, list each job you have held and the skills that were necessary to
perform those jobs. Then rate yourself on each skill. Your assessment should give you a broad
picture of your areas of strength and the areas in which your skills are weaker. Use this
assessment to compare the skills you already possess with the skills necessary to perform the
jobs you're applying for.
Vocational skills audits may also be conducted by an organization to learn in which areas their
employees are strong and highly skilled and in which areas they need to focus training or hiring
resources. Some organizations conduct assessment internally, using a collaborative process in
which employees assess themselves and their jobs while management also performs assessment.
Other organizations hire external firms that specialize in skills assessment. Employees are
sometimes asked to do self-assessment as part of their yearly review.
Whether self-administered or administered by someone else, a vocational skills audit helps
employees and management understand what skills are necessary to job performance, what areas
employees are highly skilled in and which areas are in need of development.
PERFORMANCE-BASED MEASURES OF FUNCTIONAL SKILLS: USEFULNESS IN
CLINICAL TREATMENT STUDIES
Recently, attention to the assessment and treatment of functional disability has increased notably.
It is widely understood that impairments in everyday living skills, including independent living
skills, social functions, vocational functioning, and self-care, are present in people with
schizophrenia. It has also become clear recently that assessment of these skills can pose
substantial challenges. These challenges include selection of meaningful short-term outcome
measures and avoiding bias and reduced validity in the data. Self-report, direct observation and
informant reports of everyday disability all have certain advantages but appear to be inferior to
direct assessment of skills with performance-based measures.
This review outlines the issues associated with the assessment of functional skills and everyday
functioning and provides a description of the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches. We
conclude that direct assessment of functional capacity has substantial advantages over other
measures and may actually provide a more direct and valid estimate of functional disability than
performance on the more distal neuropsychological assessment measures.
Political will, vision and leadership at the highest level are necessary conditions for formulating
and implementing TVSD policies.Many reforms started with repositioning TVET within the
framework of educational reform.In Ghana, for example, a Presidential Committee on Education
was established in 2006, and a Council for TVET bill was passed by Parliament which
emphasized the objective of providing people with employable skills, as well as training driven
by industry needs and entrepreneurship. The function of the council is to co-ordinate technical
and vocational skills provision across the formal and informal arenas and to harmonize skill
strategies across ministries. Senegal provides a similar example. The majority of African
countries engaged in reform have formulated or are in the process of preparing a sectoral
policy and an action plan for TVSD which summarize the objectives, and aligns the plan with
available human and financial
Despite the importance given to TVSD by many governments, the training system in Africa is
largely underfinanced. Generally, the provision of technical and vocational skills and especially
formal TVET is expensive, since facilities, material, equipment and maintenance costs are high.
On average, only about 2 to 6 per cent ofeducational budgets are devoted to TVSD, and in
many countries, it is mainly channeled toward formal TVET. Limited public-sector budgets have
seriously constrained the ability of governments to provide adequate and stable funding to public
sector training institutions. In parallel, training budgets are accorded little priority in many
enterprises, resulting in under-training by firms.
ADDRESSING THE SKILL NEEDS OF THE INFORMAL SECTOR
Training those who participate in the informal sector should go hand-in-hand with other
instruments, such as fiscal policies, provision of credit, and extension of social protection and
labour laws, to improve the performance of enterprises and the employability of workers. The
aim should be to transform what is often marginal, survival activities into decent work fully
integrated into mainstream economic life. Prior learning and skills gained in the sector should be
validated by certification systems which can help workers in the informal sector gain access to
the formal labour market.
In view of the very large informal sector in Africa and its important role in the labour markets,
the provision of training for workers in the informal sector should be recognized in the policy
agenda. Yet in many countries, such as Mozambique, the ongoing pilot reform does not include
training programmes for the informal sector. A major overhaul of the apprenticeship laws,
policies and practices in Africa is required to support and improve informal apprenticeship
systems. They badly need upgrading to ensure higher quality, more equal access, enhanced
employability and better returns to the public and private investment in training.
According to the AgenceFrançaise de Développement’s field studies, some ongoing reforms are
attempting to modernize the informal apprenticeship systems through strengthening their
institutional frameworks and building links with the formal TVET systems. These efforts aim at
improving the quality of training by offering skills upgrading for master craftspeople in formal
training institutions (e.g. in Uganda, Niger, and Mali), and providing opportunities to test and
certify skills acquired on the job. Overall, many West African countries such as Benin, Togo,
Senegal and Mali are restructuring technical and vocational training systems and incorporating
traditional apprenticeships; they are developing dual apprenticeships systems, where the craft
enterprises which take on apprentices share the responsibility for training with colleges.
In parallel, some regulatory instruments have been developed, in order to implement the overall
policy objectives and the specific arrangements for apprenticeship, such as the types of
apprenticeship contracts to be drawn up, and the rules governing vocational qualifications. Also,
South Africa and Ethiopia are opening their TVSD systems to informal sector needs (see Box
27). Morocco and Tunisia have programmes which focus on the introduction of apprenticeship
contracts, setting remuneration levels, offering incentives to employers (in terms of exemptions
for the payment of social security obligations), setting age requirements, and introducing dual
training between the place of work and specialized training institutions.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL SKILLS
TVSD in Africa operates under many constraints that limit its impact and further expansion. This
sober picture is not merely due to lack of resources but also to how available resources are being
used. Several African countries have missing/weak links at many levels: between national
development policy and the role of TVSD; between skills needs in industry and educational
curricula; between TVET institutions and universities; between formal training and firm-based
training or informal training. In some countries, the responsibility for TVSD is often split among
different ministries and agencies often operating in isolation and not as part of a comprehensive
system for human resources development. In turn, the lack of a coherent strategic approach to the
sector results in fragmentation of efforts, and wasted resources, and thus makes it difficult for
private actors and donors to assist adequately the development of technical skills.
In the wave of public sector reforms many countries have decided to reshape the technical and
vocational skill development system in order to make it more efficient and effective. The need to
link training to employment (either self or paid employment) is at the root of all the good
practices and strategies observed. In some countries TVSD reforms have been underway long
enough to identify some of the main lessons learned. The review of successful African countries’
experiences suggests that TVSD strategies need to be informed by a clear vision, fully integrated
into development and poverty reduction strategies and action plans, and focused on sectors with
promising employment prospects. In particular, in the majority of African countries where the
informal sector is dominant, TVSD reforms should recognize and emphasize skills development,
such as business management and entrepreneurial training. Successful implementation of the
strategy requires an enabling environment for monitoring, evaluation, funding, and regulation.
Partnership with the private sector, employers and civil society is increasingly recognized to be
crucial to secure additional resources to finance TVSD, ensure training relevance, and promote
THE RATIONALE FOR TECHNICAL AND VOCATIONAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
African countries are working towards improving the quality and skills levels of their labour
forces. The increasing recognition that higher technical and vocational skills are crucial in
enhancing competitiveness and contributing to social inclusion, decent employment, and poverty
reduction has been a strong incentive for reform. The term technical and vocational skills
development (TVSD) refers to the acquisition of knowledge, practical competencies, knowhow
and attitudes necessary to perform a certain trade or occupation in the labour market. For the
scope of this report, TVSD corresponds to the broad UNESCO and ILO definition of technical
and vocational education and training (TVET).Competencies can be acquired either through
structured training in public or private TVET schools and centres, or through practical
experience on the job in enterprises (work-place training in the formal sector and informal
apprenticeship), or both (the so-called “dual” training, involving a combination of work-place
and institution based training).
It is generally recognized (and is key to the ILO Decent Work Agenda) that the development of
relevant skills is an important instrument for improving productivity and working conditions, and
the promotion of decent work in the informal economy, which represents the major employer in
Africa. Education and skills can open doors to economically and socially rewarding jobs and can
help the development of small informal-sector businesses, allow the re-insertion of displaced
workers and migrants, and support the transition from school to work for school drop-outs and
graduates. Ultimately, developing job-related competencies among the poor, the youth and the
vulnerable is recognized as crucial to progress in reducing poverty.
The development of job-related skills is, therefore, not only part of the countries’ human
resource strategies but also of their economic-growth and poverty-reduction strategies. The
inclusion of a skills-development component in country poverty reduction strategy papers
(PRSPs) and national development plans is, thus, becoming more common. South Africa, for
example, has put the development of skills at the centre of the new Country Development
Strategy (Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative-AsgiSA), which aims at halving poverty and
unemployment by 2014.
Generally, investing in knowledge and skills is seen by many governments as the cornerstone of
developing an employable and globally competitive work force. A skilled and knowledgeable
work force improves the investment climate because skilled workers create an attractive
economic environment for investors. The returns to increasing investments in skills development
tend to be high in rapidly growing economies, and can be low or non-existent in situations
characterized by weak growth and poor governance. Among the most critical supporting factors
of better skills utilization will be the macroeconomic reforms necessary to promote growth, and
thus expand the opportunities for business development and employment. Strategies to promote
national growth should emphasize skills development for the sectors with the most promising
employment prospects if they are to have a maximum impact.
Important reforms to promote vocational and technical skills have been initiated both in the
formal and informal sectors in a number of countries reflecting a more integrated approach to
education, training and employment. A renewed emphasis on skills development has also been
echoed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) 2007 High Level Panel which has
recommended skills development as a critical pillar of the Bank’s support to African countries in
the 21st Century.
Country reviews in this edition of the Economic Outlook systems in Africa remain influenced by
multiple constraints that limit their expansion and impact. Many programmes are not adapted to
the needs of the economy and the responsibility for training is fragmented among different
agencies. Experiments and TVSD reforms in Africa generally remain small-scale. The challenge
is now to scale-up on the basis of successful pilot programmes. TVSD reform strategies with
sustainable financing are rare, the stakeholders are not always prepared to play their role and
suffer from limited capacity. In addition, the number of enterprises capable of offering work-
place training opportunities is limited, while many training institutions have poor delivery
capacity and commonly lack funding. In turn, training programmes do not produce skilled
graduates because training is of poor quality and the equipment obsolete.
Many youths cannot access formal TVET, and few countries have training policies which
emphasize skills development in the informal sector. Other obstacles include the low prestige of
formal TVET in the eyes of the general public and parents who consider it to be an option
suitable only for pupils who perform poorly in general education.