The figures reveal an unmistakable truth: Eighty percent of Higher Technical Institute graduates find a job within a year and 92% in an area related to their schooling. “A decade after creation, Italy’s system of Higher Technical Institutes continues proving its effectiveness in terms of employability”, declared Education Minister Patrizio Bianchi. Prime Minister Mario Draghi also dedicated meaningful words to Higher Technical Institutes in his first speech to Parliament last February. Not coincidentally, Italy is dedicating part of the funds for the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to these institutions, allocating €1.5 billion to relaunch and strengthen them.
What the data say
A core focus of Indire’s HTI report is the 12-month employment rate for each area, with growth in Sustainable Mobility (83%) and Information and Communication Technologies (82%). In contrast, New Technologies for the Made in Italy sector fell slightly over the last year to 79.8%, notwithstanding the encouraging results of the mechanics and fashion sectors, which fell slightly over the last 12 months yet still scored over 80%, and home system growth, which reached 77.5%.
The type of contracts concluded is another important analysis of the study: most of them were fixed-term jobs or self-employment under subsidised arrangements, involving just over 42% employed, with the only exception in the Information and Communication Technology area, where apprenticeships predominate.
Most students at Higher Technical Institutes today are male (72.6%), especially in the 20–24 and 18–19 age groups, which together make up more than 80%, and hold a technical secondary school diploma (59%).
The report also reveals rising enrolment in recent years, especially from vocational schools, where there has been a slight increase, while those from high schools remain stable (21%).
Awaiting them in the classroom are mainly professionals from the world of work, who represent 71% of the teachers. Their presence is not the only link with companies, as shown by the percentage of companies and business associations among the 2,462 HTI partners, an impressive 44.6%.
The very heart of HTI teaching activities are, of course, the laboratories, which serve as a genuine venue for practical learning.
Higher Technical Institutes aim to create what are referred to as knowledge workers. This picture emerges from the research, which highlights the key role of technology. Fifty-five percent of the monitored pathways used enabling technologies of Industry 4.0 and 84% even more than one.
These include simulation between interconnected machines to optimise simulation processes (47.3%) and high volume data management on open cloud systems (46.4%). A solid foundation for a start, one that also precludes the ‘academicisation’ of HTI. Also for this reason, there are some suggestions within the monitoring on how to develop a possible reform.
At the system level, the first step would seem to require increased student enrolments, and therefore graduates, to satisfy the needs of businesses. It is also necessary to ensure stability in the disbursement of funds and to support companies in the provision of scholarships for HTI graduates, strengthening the link between the institutes and companies and the local area. Finally, the report argues that ITS needs to be equipped with the right tools for 4.0 technological innovation processes at an infrastructural level, while at an organisational level it is necessary to introduce an internal development model capable of interacting better with the region/local communities.
“Without innovating the current organisation of these schools, we risk wasting those resources”. From the very beginning of his government, Prime Minister Draghi made the need for reforming technical institutions very clear, and their approval seems to be getting closer and closer.
The Italian National Recovery and Resilience Plan approved by the European Commission contemplates a comprehensive reform of the HTI system. The stated objectives are: bolstering the HTI system by enhancing organisational and teaching models; integrating pathways with the university professional degree system; simplifying governance to increase the number of institutes and enrolments; approving measures to develop and strengthen STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), digital and innovation skills, with the aim of boosting enrolment, particularly for women.
This plan afforded a strong impetus to parliamentary work, leading to a bill unifying the six proposals presented on the same subject in the Chamber of Deputies. Passed by Montecitorio in late July, the bill now has to pass through the Senate.
In keeping with the definition given by the Ministry of Education as ‘post-diploma schools of excellence with high technological specialisation’, Higher Technical Institutes shall become Higher Technical Institute Academies (HTI Academies). While the objective remain unaltered, i.e. to train superior technicians, the rules have nevertheless changed: the introduction of an initial and periodic accreditation system to access public funds, the structuring of HTI Academy pathways into two tiers and the definition of a new governance.
To uphold the level of excellence, the reform stipulates that if the institution receives a negative evaluation from the monitoring and evaluation system for three years, the initial five-year accreditation may be withdrawn. And finally, teachers will be selected from professionals drawn from the world of work (60%) and from schools in the national education system (20%).
To help get the reform off the ground, the Ministry of Education will set up a new fund for higher technical education and training, endowed with €68 million for 2021 and €48 million a year from 2022.