A 2014 report of the OECD has emphasized the importance of vocational education and training (VET) as a policy tool for governments to respond to the rapidly changing demands of the global economy.
MJB's Center for Research on Employment of Disadvantaged Populations has increasingly been working in collaboration with international organizations to advance this agenda in Israel.
In 2014, MJB was a partner in the Mediterranean Region Conference on Governance for Employability, a collaboration sponsored by the European Training Foundation to focus on improving vocational education and training systems in the region. Working with the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education, the General Federation of Labor, and the education networks ORT and AMAL, MJB researchers Dr. Yonatan Eyal and Yael Hadar presented a comprehensive overview of Israel’s professional and technological training system for youth. At the conference, professional contacts were established with participants from Middle Eastern countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Also in 2014, the OECD released an international report on "Skills Beyond School," which included a country review of Israel's VET system. The review was based on a detailed policy review of post-secondary vocational training in Israel, prepared by MJB for the Ministry of Economy.
Most recently, the Prime Minister's Office established an interministerial commission to examine issues of accreditation and the development of VET programs. MJB prepared a detailed review of accreditation policies in England, Switzerland, and Germany, which contributed to the decision to establish a national qualification framework in Israel.
MJB is also a partner in an international collaboration on vocational training with the Israeli Ministry of Economy and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Over the past two years, there have been a series of professional exchanges between Israel and Germany focusing on best practices in vocational education and training in both countries. Among the issues being discussed are how to increase the involvement of employers, unions, and other stakeholders in designing Israel's VET system, and how to expand data-based decision-making within the system.
Center director Dr. Nir Levy and MJB researcher Tirza Willner are providing professional support for the design of an Israeli parallel to Germany's Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, a world leader in this field.
Apprenticeship as a Path to Vocational Training
There is growing interest all over the world in the development in apprenticeship systems as a cornerstone of the vocational training system. The essence of the apprenticeship approach is that it combines formal instruction with on-the-job experience guided by an assigned mentor.
The apprenticeship model has long been popular in some European countries, in a centuries-old tradition of young workers learning a trade within a guild system. In Israel, however, apprenticeship has never taken hold for a variety of reasons.
Over the past few years, MJB has actively contributed to a shared learning process among key stakeholders with respect to the possibilities of introducing the apprenticeship approach in Israel. This has included bringing in international experts, holding seminars, conferences, and international study tours, and participating in planning processes.
The fruits of this collaborative learning process are being realized with the piloting of a new apprenticeship program developed by JDC-Israel and the Ministry of Economy's Manpower Training and Development Bureau, which will be evaluated by MJB. Called "Starter," the program aims to help chronically unemployed and under-employed adults to successfully transition into professional employment using apprenticeship training. In addition to helping the individual participants integrate into employment, the program is also seeking to develop a wider culture of apprenticeship among Israeli employers.
The program prepares participants with three months of basic skills training prior to their entry into a workplace. They then begin their apprenticeship and receive practical vocational training while working and being paid for their work. They continue supplementary studies for two or three days a week. After completing training, all participants will be required to take official Israeli government exams to receive their formal credentials.
Participating employers benefit from being able to hire an employee tailor-groomed to the employer’s needs, and from the monthly subsidies for time devoted to training the apprentice.
MJB's evaluation of the pilot will be an important basis for the subsequent decision to expand the program nationally.
Given the trends in Israel's labor market, there is every indication that vocational education and training will continue to grow as an important component of Israel's labor force development strategy and as a part of MJB's research program.