Education 3.0 – The need to re-imagine not just education, but vocational education

January 22, 2023 / 8 min. read

Another Sunday, and another article, conference, or workshop on re-imagining education.

It’s not just tiresome, but I’m coming around to the idea that it could be hurtful rather than helpful. What part of education exactly do conference facilitators mean? The term is now widely used, yet often fails to be specific in its direction or focus; who is accountable during this process? How inclusive is it? What evidence is being used?

We at Think Learning Studio have been guilty of using the phrase.

Education is a vast field of academics, courses, research, seminars and workshops; what exactly are we re-imagining and post-reimagining? Is the collective community going to do anything with the post-sticks, notepads and presentations once clarity has been achieved?

The direction this article would like to take is that one policy that could be immediately re-imagined is our approach, branding and structuring of vocational education. The debris and remains of vocational courses are sewn across schools in many nations, a failed concept, an underutilised initiative, even with the OECD claiming that “vocational education and training is a powerful tool to improve the employability of young people and to reduce youth unemployment.”

Thus, we need to get specific in our goal to … (wait for it) … re-imagine education.



Could Europe, the Middle East and others be facing an educational crisis? It’s been at the forefront of many conversations across the region in the past twelve months, from Dubai to Brisbane to Muskat to Sydney, that even with booming economic developments (new technology and increased foreign investment), officials are concerned with the numbers around unemployment and a shortage of skilled workers. One solution to this problem is prioritizing and reframing (reimagining!) vocational training over a more traditional doctrine of university education. Vocational training, also known as career and technical education, focuses on providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for specific occupations. This education is more directly applicable to the workforce and can lead to more immediate employment upon graduation.


“Vocational education is a key driver of economic development, providing workers with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the global economy.” – Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University


In contrast, a university education is often seen as a means to gain general knowledge and theoretical skills, which may take time to apply to the workforce. Vocational education should have been more utilized during the 1990s & 2000s but was seen as a lesser career path than its fellow courses of A-Levels or IBO (and others).

It was for a variety of reasons that vocational courses were removed or sidelined from many national agendas. Firstly its low prestige against other classes, the perception that it was for those who were not academically inclined or who could not afford university (which led to low student and teacher uptake), and its failure to be integrated with the labour market, resulting in a skills mismatch between training and the needs of employers.

However, today’s economy is vastly different from yesterday (named by Tegmark, Life 3.0), with the rise of new technology, such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and robotics leading to a shift in the skills and knowledge needed for success in the workforce. This new economy, characterized by rapid technological changes and automation, increasingly requires workers with specialized skills and knowledge to thrive in a workforce that requires one to pivot constantly.

Traditional university education, which often focuses on theoretical and academic knowledge, may be less directly applicable to the workforce in this new economy. It needs to be more relevant to the workforce, and its high cost and facilitation of student debt mean it’s often difficult for graduates to start their careers and can have long-term adverse effects on their financial well-being.

On the other hand, vocational training, which focuses on providing students with the skills and knowledge needed for specific occupations, is better suited to the needs of the new economy. Vocational training programs can be designed to align with the skills and knowledge necessary for growing and expanding industries.



Additionally, vocational training is often more flexible. It can be updated quickly to reflect the rapid changes in technology and industry (as I spoke about in my last article on the emergence of ChatGPT and the issues caused for the slow-moving beast that educational systems are). Vocational courses can be more tailored to the needs of the local labour market, a different about the market, and be more responsive to the changing demand for skills.

In this new economy, vocational training can thrive as it can provide students with the skills and knowledge needed for success in the workforce, such as teamwork and cooperation, rather than passive listening and memorization. It can be a valuable alternative to traditional university education, which may be less directly applicable to Tegmark’s new 3.0 economy.


“The fate of our civilization will be decided not by how well we can compete, but by how well we can cooperate.” – Max Tegmark, Life 3.0

Finally, the fast technological changes and automation in many industries, which was seen as a negative in the past, now maybe it’s saviour, new enlightenment in which vocational training was seen as less relevant in the West, as the training that students received may be outdated by the time they graduated and entered the workforce. This, however, has now flipped. This is more than ever a criticism of standardized university education; observers question if this was a fair criticism of vocational training in the past or a misunderstanding of its potential then vs now.

Many factors combined to create a situation where vocational training failed to take off in the West, which is being dangerously replicated elsewhere, despite its potential to provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce.

An introductory call to action is forming an inquiry to investigate if a new hybrid form of traditional (theoretical) meets a vocational (hands-on) approach to close the skills gap. Many industries in the region need more skilled workers, particularly in engineering, construction, and healthcare. By prioritizing vocational training, governments move a step closer to ensuring their workforce is equipped with the skills needed to fill these in-demand jobs in challenging yet enjoyable courses adapted to meet the needs of today’s Gen-Z.

The style of factory-based vocational of the 1990s could be replaced with dynamic experiences based on this new technology of Life 3.0, making the most of our resources and expanding hybrid course offerings based on practical experiences within biology, physics, psychology and engineering and other domains.

In conclusion, we should investigate if a hybrid vocational training experience could be advantageous over a more static university education.  A possible rebranded vocational hybrid education could provide a direct path to employment, address the skills gap and help reduce youth unemployment.

By investing in vocational training, policymakers can ensure their workforce is equipped with the skills needed for this thriving economy that’s emerging across the region led by an enthusiastic new generation of entrepreneurs, founders and directors.


In summary, vocational education is a crucial aspect to consider for the sustainable growth of the economy and society, providing individuals with the opportunity to acquire the crucial skills and knowledge for a new workforce, ultimately leading to a better and more appropriate education for all.


If you know of any tremendous vocational approaches or courses, please share them in the (LinkedIn) chat.



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