Hong Kong should give vocational training the credit it deserves
It is about time society woke up to the fact that it is not all about academic qualifications and recognised the learning of valuable skills benefits us all
Hong Kong’s highly competitive education system guarantees an ample supply of talent for the workforce. But it also screens out many more less achieving ones, who, given the right training, can still become invaluable assets to the economy. Unfortunately, entrenched mindsets and social stigmas mean vocational education is still seen by many as inferior to academic qualifications.
This owes much to the long-held perception that vocational training is tantamount to dirty hands, a poor working environment and meagre wages. While it is still the case for certain industries, innovation and technology have also opened up new horizons and opportunities for transformation. Jobs that were once regarded as lacking in promise have the potential to become fulfilling careers too.
The success of Ray Chong Tak-kishows this. The 21-year-old information technology enthusiast went down the vocational road only after his academic results in the Diploma of Secondary Education failed to earn him a place in one of the city’s universities. In October, he won a medal of excellence in the category for IT software solutions for business at the WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi, a vocational skills contest held every two years.
Hong Kong took home a bronze medal and seven medallions of excellence, ranking 25th among the 59 countries and regions that took part.
Unlike some countries where less academically oriented students may opt for vocational schools at a younger age, those in Hong Kong usually turn to the Vocational Training Council only when there is no university option. This preference reinforces the perception that the training school is just a place for losers in open exams. That is why four out of five respondents in a September survey did not recognise vocational training as a professional qualification.
Such a mentality is preventing people from maximising their potential at a younger age. As the economy becomes more diversified, so should career paths. Our society stands to benefit by giving vocational training the recognition and support it deserves.