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Guiding Trend 20 November Nov 2017 1100 20 November 2017

Technical Vocational Schools, Italian progress will pass through them

They train professionals in strategic sectors for the country’s future development. And yet, they are a niche framework despite the fact that they guarantee employability for almost 80% of new graduates.

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They are called TVS, Technical Vocational Schools. And they are the first Italian experience of an offer for vocational training in the services sector. The model follows systems that are already consolidated in other European countries, among which Germany ranks first. Established in 2010, they are highly technological schools that are linked to the production system. They should theoretically prepare intermediate top managers for the twist wrought by the fourth industrial revolution (industry 4.0). But they have not been particularly improved in Italy and, therefore, remain a niche phenomenon. Indeed, enrolled students are little more than 8,500, a mere drop in the ocean, compared to 760,000 students enrolled in the corresponding German institutes and 240,000 in France. And yet, their goal is immediate employment. Italian data indicate that these schools guarantee employment to 79.1% of graduates after one year, rising to 79.5% after three years (source: Indire).

To date, Italy counts 93 TVS (18 in Lombardy alone), related to six technological areas that are considered strategic for the country’s development, precisely, sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, innovative technologies for culture and tourism, information and communication technologies, new life technologies, and new technologies for the Made in Italy sector. These are all key sectors for Italian competitiveness. It is no mere chance that TVSes are established in compliance with the organisational model of participatory foundation, in partnership with companies, universities, schools and local agencies. The rationale is to create a “community of production lines” in which youth are prepared to meet the needs of Italian districts.

The following are some examples. Il Mita, Made in Italy Tuscany Academy in Scandicci (Florence) yields figures for the fashion production line with skills in product design, material evaluation and supply chain management. The International Academy of Tourism and Hospitality, on Lake Como, instead, teaches the «Italian way of life» for high standard careers in the sector of tourism.

TVSes can be accessed, following a screening process, by students who possess a senior high school diploma, and by those who possess a diploma obtained after four years of study, professional training and attendance of an annual integrated course of senior high school education and technical training. Study tracks have a duration of two or three years with a study plan of two thousand hours, half of which centre on lessons, while the other half are spent on practical training. A work experience is mandatory for 30% of the overall hours, and at least 50% of the professors come from the labour market.

Enrolled students are little more than 8,500, a mere drop in the ocean, compared to 760,000 students who have enrolled in the corresponding German institutes and 240,000 in France.

Despite the growing trend, enrolments are still low. And yet, these highly specialised institutes yield figures that are in high demand on the labour market. An Excelsior Unioncamere survey reports that the ten most difficult professional figures to find are technicians in the IT, engineering and production fields (63%), and steel workers and electromechanical workers (47%).

Considering these numbers, the need to focus on technical training after the high school diploma is quite evident. Such training is mainly provided by TVSes in Italy. The first step could be to improve communication in order to make these schools more attractive for young high school graduates and their families. They must understand what students do at the TVS and their future prospects. The Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Gabriele Toccafondi, describes TVS didactics with three verbs, precisely «Design, prototype, evaluate». Briefly, a combination of know-how and practical skills that must, however, differ from the new three-year vocational degrees. This effort to enhance communications must endow these schools, on which the country’s development will depend, with social and cultural prestige. The truth is that they are still considered as second class schools and, subsequently, the job opportunities they offer are also looked upon in the same way.

Let’s not forget investments. TVSes link training and the labour market, which is rapidly changing. Hence, they need more attention, even economically. The National Corporate Plan 4.0 focuses on achieving a two-fold increase in the number of students enrolled in TVSes in 2020. But the resources envisaged by the Budget Law for 2018 are wavering and might be either reduced or even cancelled. And yet, training and skills are crucial to win a place in the future world of labour 4.0.